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Wiggy remarks

By JO BECKER

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 3, 2000


After being presented with an Afro wig and sunglasses on the House floor Tuesday, Rep. Robert Starks, R-Casselberry, thanks Rep. Al Lawson for naming him an honorary member of the Black Caucus for his support of minority issues. Starks, 54, recalled growing up in segregated Tampa and said he had become more sensitive to racial issues while serving with Lawson. Lawson, D-Tallahassee, who must leave the House because of term limits, had earlier donned the wig and glasses in a farewell speech, saying that's what he looked like when he was first elected in 1982.

House scales back medicine aid

House lawmakers dramatically scaled back a proposal to help struggling seniors pay for prescription medication Tuesday.

Sponsors had hoped to set aside $55-million for the proposed program. That later was reduced to $15-million for a program that would have begun on Jan. 1 and helped an estimated 30,000 people.

Under the bill that passed, the program won't start until April 1. That reduces the program's cost to $7.5-million.

The program is aimed at helping seniors whose income is 90 to 120 percent of the poverty level: for a family of two, between $10,125 and $13,500 a year.

House Appropriations Chairman Ken Pruitt, one of the bill's sponsors, said he made the change because the state needs time to implement the bill.

The Senate bill still has the $15-million appropriation. Unlike the House version, it contains a provision to force pharmaceutical manufacturers to disclose certain gifts to doctors. If the House and Senate cannot reach an agreement, nothing will pass this year.

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