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  • Tourism suffers across Florida after pummeling by hurricanes
  • Key dates in the life of Terri Schiavo
  • An excerpt from the unanimous ruling in the Schiavo case
  • Four confirmed dead after small plane crash in Panhandle
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    State briefs

    By Compiled from Times wires

    © St. Petersburg Times, published September 22, 2000


    Suit challenges vote ban for felons

    MIAMI -- Civil liberties groups filed a lawsuit Thursday challenging Florida's lifetime ban on voting by convicted felons.

    The ban disfranchises more people than any other state: 500,000, nearly 5 percent of the state's voting-age population and 24 percent of black men, said the New York University law school's Brennan Center for Justice, one of the groups suing in federal court.

    The ban is unconstitutional because its disproportionate effect on blacks makes the state law discriminatory, the lawsuit said.

    State law keeps all felons from voting unless the governor and Cabinet reinstate their voting rights under special petitions, which are often denied. Thirteen states have similar bans.

    The lawsuit has little likelihood of affecting the coming presidential election. The cutoff for registering to vote is Oct. 10.

    Canker fighters tighten monitoring

    TALLAHASSEE -- Agriculture officials are stepping up efforts to stop citrus canker in portions of five Florida counties.

    Inspectors will increase monitoring in areas of canker outbreaks, known as "red zones," to make sure growers are decontaminating workers and equipment.

    The areas cover lime groves in Homestead; the southern portion of Hillsborough County; and all of Collier, Hendry and Manatee counties.

    Inspectors will visit groves to monitor decontamination procedures and check citrus-hauling trucks for documentation showing that the citrus comes from groves that have been declared canker-free.

    Earlier this year, citrus growers and contractors who do maintenance in the groves and harvest fruit signed compliance agreements with the Agriculture Department pledging to follow decontamination procedures when they enter and leave a citrus grove. The procedures typically involve spraying equipment and workers' clothes with a solution that kills canker bacteria.

    Failure to follow the decontamination procedures and rules governing the movement of citrus carry fines of up to $5,000.

    McCollum aide blasts Medicare ads

    ORLANDO -- The campaign for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bill McCollum demanded Thursday that a Democratic ad accusing the congressman of voting to cut Medicare be withdrawn because it's inaccurate.

    The ad, which began airing Tuesday in Jacksonville, Orlando and Tampa, was paid for by the Florida Democratic Party, not the campaign of McCollum's Democratic opponent, Bill Nelson.

    McCollum campaign manager Tre Evers accused Democrats of trying to scare senior citizens with the ad.

    In the ad, an announcer says, "Which Florida congressman voted to cut Medicare eight times? Congressman Bill McCollum. . . . Cuts of billions that would harm Florida's seniors."

    The ad doesn't tell the full story, Evers said. McCollum voted for Republican budget bills that may have had smaller increases for Medicare than those proposed by the Clinton administration, but he did not vote to cut money, he said.

    "We think Bill Nelson should be ashamed of these Medicare tactics," Evers said. "The ads don't tell the truth," said Florida GOP Chairman Al Cardenas.

    The ad was "100 percent accurate," countered Florida Democratic Party spokesman Tony Welch.

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    From the Times state desk