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Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 31, 2000

Registered voter totals up; Democrats still hold lead

TALLAHASSEE -- Registered Democrats continue to outnumber Republicans in Florida, although not by much.

The number of voters eligible to vote in next week's election was released Monday by the state Division of Elections. The total has grown by more than 674,000 since 1996, to 8,752,717, the figures show.

Of those, 3,803,081 registered as Democrats and 3,430,238 as Republicans. Those numbers represented increases for both parties.

The number of people registering with no party affiliation also grew, to 1,353,431.

Other totals: Independent Party, 146,559; Libertarian Party, 9,462; Reform Party, 4,672; Green Party, 2,728; all others, 2,546.

Experts say the federal "motor voter" law has led to increased registrations across the country. The 1995 law requires states to offer potential voters the opportunity to register at motor vehicle tag agencies, public schools, welfare offices, military recruiting offices, libraries and many other non-courthouse points.

Senate candidates split 3 mayors' endorsements

FORT LAUDERDALE -- Mayors from three of Florida's largest cities split their endorsements of the candidates running to be Florida's next U.S. senator Monday.

Democratic Insurance Commissioner Bill Nelson got the endorsements of Democratic Tampa Mayor Dick Greco and Democratic Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas.

"Bill Nelson has been a tough consumer advocate and has been fighting higher insurance rates since he's been in office," Penelas said.

Jim Naugle, the Democratic mayor of Fort Lauderdale, announced he was backing Republican Bill McCollum.

Naugle said McCollum worked as a U.S. representative to help Fort Lauderdale get $1-million for community policing.

Nursing home panel hears two views on lawsuits

TALLAHASSEE -- Florida's troubled nursing home industry could emerge from bankruptcy within a year with its debt cut about in half, a financial analyst told a task force Monday.

But the industry will quickly find itself strapped again unless the state takes steps to reduce lawsuits and simplify regulation, John Ransom told the state's Task Force on the Availability and Affordability of Long-Term Care.

"The fact is that the trial lawyers are just gorging on the corpse of this nursing home industry," Ransom said.

But the head of the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers said nursing home residents must keep the right to sue when they're hurt or neglected.

"Our parents, our grandparents are one of the two most vulnerable classes of citizens in our state," Lance Block said. The other group, under Florida law, is people with mental retardation and other developmental disabilities.

One in four of Florida's nursing home beds now is operated by a company in bankruptcy.

Ransom and Block were among several experts the 19-member task force heard from Monday. They repeated views heard in previous hearings in Tampa and Pensacola.

The 19-member task force has until the end of the year to make its recommendations. It will meet again today and on Nov. 15 in Tallahassee, in North Miami Dec. 4-5 and in Jacksonville Dec. 18.

Man detonates homemade bomb at golf course

DAYTONA BEACH -- A man was injured when he detonated a homemade bomb in an apparent suicide attempt while sitting in a wheelchair on a golf course fairway, police said.

The explosion at the Daytona Beach Golf Club early Sunday rattled windows and was audible a mile away, witnesses told police.

The 23-year-old man was taken to Halifax Medical Center with abdominal injuries and burns on the lower part of his face. His name had not been released. He was also being held for mental evaluation, police said.

Two men walking through the golf course saw the man holding the bomb, which looked like a hand grenade, police spokesman Sgt. Al Tolley said. "He told the subjects to leave the area and that he was going to kill himself."

The explosive was made with gunpowder, investigators said.

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