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Winners & Losers

By Times staff writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 6, 2001


What passed

What passed

The Legislature considered hundreds of bills. Most died along the way, but some passed both houses. Following are some that passed. The governor will sign many into law and may veto some. Others may become law without the governor's signature. To find out the status of a particular bill, call 1-800-342-1827 toll-free during business hours or visit the Web site, http://www.eog.state.fl.us/, and click on Governor's Office, then Executive Orders and Legislative Actions.

Budget & taxes

BUDGET: A $48-billion spending plan provides a 4 percent increase in per student spending, tuition increases of 7.5 percent for university students and 3.5 percent for community college students, more than $70-million for nursing home improvements, $24-million for new voting machines, and $4.5-million to begin planning for a high-speed bullet train.

TAXES: A nine-day sales tax holiday for back-to-school shoppers, July 28-Aug. 5, covers clothing costing $50 or less and school supplies costing $10 or less. Exemption levels rise on the intangibles tax on stocks, bonds and other investments, from the current $20,000 to $250,000 of value for individuals or from $40,000 to $500,000 for couples. Business also wins a new $250,000 exemption.

Constitution

DEATH PENALTY: Lets voters decide in 2002 whether to put the death penalty in the Constitution.

Consumers

BEER SIZES: Repeals a law limiting beer and other malt beverage containers to 8, 12, 16 or 32 ounces.

CAR INSURANCE: Puts limits on fees paid to brokers who arrange medical services for crash victims.

ELECTRIC LIFELINE: Requires that people using electric-powered medically necessary machines be given ample notice by power companies who intend to turn off their service for nonpayment of bills.

FUNERAL FUNDS: Phases out funeral and cemetery companies' option of converting some of the cash they receive for "pre-need contracts" into surety bonds, requiring that all such money paid to them eventually has to stay in trust funds.

MOBILE HOME PARKS: Creates a trust fund to help with relocation costs for mobile home park residents evicted as a result of the sale of the park for new development.

PAYDAY LOANS: Puts a $500 limit on what a person can borrow against a future paycheck and puts a $10 cap on transaction fees, with no interest collectible on the fee. Limits borrowers to one loan at a time and creates a statewide database to keep tabs on the loans.

RENT DEPOSITS: Gives landlords 30 days instead of the current 15 to notify tenants there will be a claim against the deposit because of damage to rental property. Landlords will still have 15 days to return the deposit if there is no claim for damages.

WATER RATES: Prohibits private water utilities from billing customers for the costs tied to seeking rate increases for more than four years.

Courts

NOMINATING COMMISSIONS: Gives the governor all appointments to the nine-member judicial nominating commissions that pick nominees for openings in trial and appellate courts, with the requirement that four be chosen from names submitted by the Florida Bar.

Crime & punishment

DNA: Lets convicts petition to have their DNA compared with crime evidence if it could prove their innocence

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: Imposes a five-day jail sentence on abusers who hurt their spouses or children.

MENTALLY RETARDED KILLERS: Bans capital punishment for mentally retarded killers.

SLAIN TEACHERS: Guarantees a $75,000 payment to the families of teachers or school administrators killed on the job and $1,000 toward funeral expenses; provides for continuing the teacher's health insurance for a surviving spouse and children; waives tuition for the teacher's children at state colleges. Grew out of the case of a teacher shot in West Palm Beach.

Development

FARMLAND PRESERVATION: Sets up a program to pay farmers, ranchers and timberland owners to keep them from selling to developers.

Education

HIGHER EDUCATION: Overhauls the university system, replacing the Board of Regents governing all universities with separate boards of trustees for each, with some powers reserved to a state board of education. The governor appoints members of all boards. Makes New College, in Sarasota, the 11th state university. Gives more autonomy to the St. Petersburg and Sarasota campuses of the University of South Florida and allows St. Petersburg Junior College to offer four-year degrees.

GRADING SYSTEM: Establishes a more lenient scale of percentages required for high school letter grades A-F.

DISABLED-STUDENT VOUCHERS: Expands a program that enables parents of disabled children who are dissatisfied with the child's progress in public school to receive state vouchers for private schooling.

PERFORMANCE AUDITS: Requires performance audits of public school districts at least once every five years.

TEACHER RECRUITMENT: Gives $850 retention bonuses to classroom teachers by Oct. 15. Sets up pilot teacher preparation programs at three universities, including the University of South Florida, to encourage high-achieving students to pursue teaching careers. Allows "adjunct" educators with bachelor's degrees and special expertise to teach part time in schools without taking any tests or education courses before entering the classroom.

VOUCHER DONATION CREDITS: Gives corporations tax credits for funding private school vouchers for poor children.

Elections

ELECTION REFORMS: Decertifies punch card voting systems; requires all counties to acquire precinct-based optical scan systems. Enables voters whose registration is in question to cast provisional ballots to be verified later. Provides money to counties for voting equipment. Sets statewide standards for recounts and certification of winners. Repeals the second primary for the 2002 election. Requires posting of a voters' bill of rights at each precinct.

Families

ADOPTION: Gives women up to three days to change their minds about giving up their children for adoption.

Health care

DRUG COSTS: Allows pharmacists to substitute generic equivalents for several brand-name drugs that formerly were on the state's Negative Drug Formulary and could not be switched, including the blood thinner Coumadin.

Nursing homes

Public record

Social service

Transportatio

HIGH-SPEED TRAIN: Establishes a 10-member group to study how to build a voter-ordered high-speed rail network across Florida and report back by next year

Workers

What faile

AQUIFER: Would have permitted pumping untreated surface water into Florida's aquifer for storage

CORRUPTION BY OFFICIALS: Sought to add a section to state law creating clearer standards and stiffening some penalties for misconduct by public officials.

DNA: Would have permitted the state to collect DNA samples from more felons for inclusion in a data bank.

ELECTION SUPERVISORS: Would have required elections officials in all counties to be non-partisan.

ELECTRIC DEREGULATION: Sought to deregulate the generation of electricity so any company could build power plants, the cost to be borne by investors, and sell the electricity to utilities.

GAS PRICES: Would have repealed a 1985 law forbidding the below-cost sale of gasoline by retailers.

GREYHOUND ADOPTIONS: Attempted to simplify the adoption of greyhounds after their racing days are over.

GRANDPARENTS' RIGHTS: Would have allowed grandparents who have an existing relationship with a child to go to court to ask for a formal hearing in situations where child abuse or neglect is suspected and one parent is no longer a part of the household. GROWTH MANAGEMENT: Tried to link new building approvals to school capacity.

HEALTH INSURANCE POOL: Would have reopened a state-backed insurance pool for people too sickly to get private coverage.

MEDICALLY ADVERSE INCIDENTS: Would have exempted from public records adverse incident reports on mistakes made by doctors.

MOVERS: Sought to regulate movers and subject them to felony charges for shady practices.

OUT-OF-STATE INSURERS: Would have put out-of-state health insurance companies under the same individual policy regulations governing Florida companies.

OVERCROWDED-SCHOOL VOUCHERS: Would have made private school vouchers available to students enrolled in public schools filled beyond 120 percent of capacity.

PARK: Sought to create the North Florida State Reserve and to direct the Department of Environmental Protection to establish a recreational park along the Ocklawaha River near the Rodman Reservoir.

SCHOOL CLASS SIZES: Would have put a referendum on the November 2002 ballot asking voters whether maximum class sizes in public schools should be established by the Florida Constitution.

SCHOOL PRAYER: Would have allowed high school students to lead public prayers at some school events.

SCOOTERS: Would have required children riding motorized scooters to wear a helmet and stay off sidewalks and streets.

SEX EDUCATION: Sought to require schools to mail a consent form to parents or guardians outlining sex education classes to be taught to their children and to obtain their written permission for such courses.

UNIVERSITY PRESIDENTS: Would have exempted the names of applicants from public records.

VOTING RIGHTS FOR FELONS: Would have restored voting rights to felons one year after they complete all prison and probation sentences.

WORKERS' COMPENSATION: Would have increased payments to workers with middle-level injuries, while imposing stricter standards of proof of injury. Would restrict fees for workers' lawyers.

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