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Legislature winners and losers

By Times staff writers

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 7, 2000


What passed

The Legislature considers hundreds of bills each year. Most die along the way, but some pass both houses. These are some of the measures that passed this year. The governor is expected to sign many into law and probably will veto some. Yet others may become law without his signature. To find out the status of a particular bill, call (800) 342-1827 during business hours or visit the governor's Web site, http://www.eog.state.fl.us/

BUDGET

CHILDREN: Increases spending by $96-million for Kidcare, a program that provides health care for the children of the working poor.

EVERGLADES: Sets aside $105-million for Everglades restoration next year and designates more than $1-billion for that purpose over the next 10 years.

PENSION SURPLUS: Uses $654-million of the $13-billion surplus in the state's pension plan to start restoring pension benefits that were temporarily lowered for law enforcement officers, firefighters and prison guards 22 years ago; to lower costs for local governments, school boards and state agencies; to reduce pension vesting from 10 years to six; and to give government employees more investment choices through a "defined contribution" plan.

SCHOOL IMPACT FEES: Limits school impact fees charged developers in 15 counties; replaces lost fees with state money.

SCHOOL SPENDING: Increases spending on public schools by $1-billion, offers teacher raises of about 6 percent, earmarks more money for after-school programs, tutoring, longer school years, smaller class sizes, failing schools and bonuses for teachers in failing schools.

TAX BREAKS: Further reduces the intangibles tax on investments on stocks and bonds, dropping the rate most investors pay from $1.50 per $1,000 in holdings to $1. Sets a sales tax holiday from July 29 to Aug. 6 on clothing items costing less than $100. Cuts taxes paid by restaurants on alcoholic beverages.

TRANSPORTATION: Provides money to speed up $6-billion worth of transportation projects over the next decade, including reconstruction of the Interstate 275 interchange in Tampa and an emphasis on hurricane evacuation routes.

TUITION: Increases tuition up to 5 percent for community college and university students.

BUSINESS

TECHNOLOGY: Creates tax breaks for companies that speed Internet access and for high-tech businesses that move to Florida; establishes state technology office.

CONSUMERS

BUILDING CODE: Requires all new homes in hurricane-prone areas of the state to have hurricane shutters, impact-resistant glass or other protections.

TITLE LOANS: Limits the interest title loan companies and check-cashing stores can charge to 30 percent annually.

COURTS

SUPREME COURT EXPANSION: Establishes a study commission to look at the court's workload and recommend whether more justices are needed.

TOBACCO JUDGMENTS: Protects tobacco companies from financial ruin that could be brought on by damages in a Florida class action lawsuit by capping how much bond they must post to appeal those damages.

CRIME & PUNISHMENT

10-20-LIFE: Extends stricter sentences for certain crimes involving guns to 16- and 17-year-olds as well as adults.

CAT AND DOG FUR: Bans the sale in Florida of clothes and other items made from dog or cat fur, and makes it a crime to kill a cat or dog for its pelt.

DNA LIST: Requires samples of convicted burglars' DNA to be added to the state's database for DNA evidence comparisons in crime investigations.HANDCUFF KEYS: Makes it a third-degree felony for a person taken into police custody to possess a concealed handcuff key.

LATE-TERM ABORTION: Makes it a felony to perform a late-term abortion procedure known medically as dilation and extraction, often referred to by abortion opponents as partial birth abortion.

MOTORCYCLE HELMETS: Allows adult motorcyclists to ride without helmets if they have at least $10,000 worth of personal injury insurance.

EDUCATION

LAW SCHOOLS: Creates law schools for Florida A&M University and Florida International University.

MEDICAL SCHOOL: Creates a medical school at Florida State University.

REGENTS: Puts the Board of Regents and the Florida Board of Community Colleges out of business in 2003 unless they are re-established. They will be replaced by a new board of education, appointed by the governor, House speaker and Senate president, that will be responsible for overseeing all levels of education.

ENVIRONMENT

EMISSIONS TESTING: Ends tailpipe testing of car emissions for carbon monoxide and other pollutants that was required in six Florida counties, including Hillsborough and Pinellas.

LAKE OKEECHOBEE: Spends $38.5-million to buy land needed to filter stormwater runoff and begin reducing high phosphorus levels in Lake Okeechobee.

GOVERNMENT & REGS

ETHICS: Closes loopholes that allowed elected officials to not report their income in their final year of office and between the time they're elected and sworn in.

LABOR DEPARTMENT: Dismantles most of the Department of Labor and Employment Security, giving most of its authority to a new public-private agency, Workforce Florida Inc. Also transfers the bulk of welfare-to-work responsibilities to Workforce Florida, broadens state assistance to the working poor and increases worker training.

ONE FLORIDA: The measure approving portions of Gov. Jeb Bush's plan overhauling affirmative action says a state agency cannot deny a fair opportunity to compete in the bidding process based on race, national origin, gender, religion or physical disability. Also says businesses found to have discriminated cannot submit contract bids for three years.

HEALTH & SAFETY

ABANDONED BABIES: Allows mothers to abandon newborn babies at a hospital or fire station with no questions asked in an effort to discourage abandoning them in places where they might die.

HEALTH MAINTENANCE ORGANIZATIONS: Requires that HMOs' medical decisions be made only by doctors.

PRESCRIPTION DRUG COSTS: Provides help for 30,000 elderly low-income Floridians, paying for up to $80 per month of their drug costs in exchange for 10 percent co-payments. Also requires pharmacies participating in the Medicaid discounted drugs program to also discount Medicare prescriptions.

SWIMMING POOLS: Requires that new home swimming pools have at least one of several safety features, such as a barrier, cover, self-closing door or alarm.

SPORTS & RECREATION

BASEBALL SPRING TRAINING: Provides tax dollars to renovate five spring training baseball stadiums in exchange for teams' commitments to stay at their current Florida sites for at least 15 years and to pay for at least half the upgrades.

OLYMPICS: Allows the state to set up a fund of up to $175-million to provide a guarantee that it will make up the loss if the 2012 Summer Olympics are held in Tampa Bay and prove a financial failure.

* * *

What failed

These are some of the measures that did not pass.

* * *

ADOPTION: Would have tightened adoption laws to better protect the rights of birth fathers.

ADULT EDUCATION: Would have established a procedure for turning over responsibility for adult education and vocational training programs to community colleges.

BEER CONTAINERS: Would have repealed a 1965 law that permits Florida retail stores to sell beer in four sizes only: 8, 12, 16 or 32 ounces.

CHILD CAR SEATS: Would have exempted child car safety seats from the sales tax.

CRUISE SHIP TAX: Would have let Miami-Dade voters decide in a referendum whether to levy a $4-a-day tax on cruise ship passengers departing from the Port of Miami, with the proceeds used to build a domed stadium for the Florida Marlins baseball team.

DEVELOPMENT CHALLENGES: Would have reduced citizens' rights to challenge pollution or development permits.

DIAPERS: Would have eliminated the sales tax on diapers and on "incontinence garments" for adults.

GENERIC SUBSTITUTIONS: Would have removed four brand-name drugs from a state list of 11 that pharmacists are not allowed to make generic substitutions for.

GROWTH MANAGEMENT: Early versions would have shifted the power for controlling development from the state to local authorities and created a study commission.

JUDICIAL NOMINATING COMMISSIONS: A Senate bill would have increased the number of members on Judicial Nominating Commissions from nine to 12, with the Florida Bar continuing to appoint one-third of the members and the governor one-third, and those members appointing the remaining one-third. A House bill would have kept the number of JNC members at nine, but had the Bar appointing three, the governor four and the speaker of the House and the president of the Senate one each.

KINDERGARTEN: Would have effectively lowered the minimum age for admission to public kindergarten in stages over four years, beginning in 2001.

MOBILE HOMES: Various bills would have strengthened mobile home park residents' protections against unfair assessments for park improvements and rent increases and would have given mobile home buyers a sales tax break.

RODMAN DAM: Would have created a 9,000-acre Rodman Reservoir Recreation Area in Marion and Putnam counties, including the Rodman Reservoir.

SEAT BELTS: Would have made driving or riding in a car without wearing a seat belt a "primary offense," meaning police could stop a driver just for that.

SOVEREIGN LANDS: Would have allowed landowners to claim ownership of shorelines of lakes and rivers that had been considered public lands, effectively turning an estimated 100,000 acres of state-owned property over to private ownership.

TRIGGER LOCKS: Would have required gun owners to put trigger locks on guns if they leave them anywhere they should know a child is staying.

UNIVERSITIES: Would have established three new four-year universities in the state, including Suncoast University, a conversion of the St. Petersburg campus of the University of South Florida.

WATERFRONT CLEARING: Would have allowed owners of freshwater waterfront property to scrape vegetation and up to 3 feet of muck off their shorelines without permits.

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