St. Petersburg Times
Florida Legislature Session 2001
Legislature news December 23, 2002

Legislature set to spend $1.5 million to remodel offices

December 17, 2002

Senator's bill seeks damages for judge
The claims bill alleges a 1999 back surgery gone awry caused the local judge to become blind.

December 16, 2002

Seminole legislator to become Senate's majority leader today
TALLAHASSEE -- Sen. Dennis Jones, R-Seminole, will become majority leader of the Florida Senate today.

December 14, 2002

Bill would allow voters to renege on class size
Sen. Anna Cowin's bill sets an election next year to let voters dump the class size amendment they approved Nov. 5.

November 23, 2002

Steve Bousquet: For better legislators, just add state history lesson
The 30 newly elected members of the state House spent two days in boot camp this week, at seminars ranging from workplace harassment to press relations.

November 22, 2002

Democrats mutiny against state leader
TALLAHASSEE -- Florida Democrats, fed up with humiliating election-year losses and struggling to become relevant again, are in open revolt against their leader.

November 20, 2002

Legislative leaders lay some ground rules
TALLAHASSEE -- Two new leaders with very different styles took charge of the Legislature Tuesday, warily sizing up each other and a future that may force them to find billions for smaller class sizes without new taxes.

Howard Troxler
State's new two-party Legislature: yin and yang
TALLAHASSEE -- The Senate is Eeyore.

August 30, 2002

Administration looks at environmental law
WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration is reviewing a landmark environmental law reviled and praised because it requires lengthy studies before foresters cut a tree or developers start to dig.

August 27, 2002

It's day of decision for county budget
Commissioners are to vote on whether to increase taxes for residents outside cities as part of a $1.5-billion budget.

August 26, 2002

Bill would allow DCF to publicize information about missing children
FORT LAUDERDALE -- Several state legislators say they want to lift confidentiality requirements that forbid the state's child welfare agency from publicizing information about youths missing from its care.

July 25, 2002

$43.20 qualifies as big goof
A mistake by the state has legislative candidates scrambling to scrape together a few more dollars for their election filing fees.

July 21, 2002

Senator colors outside of the party lines
According to an old rule of politics, you don't challenge the party line. Democrats toe the Democratic line. Republicans toe the Republican line. Party leaders keep their ducks in line.

July 20, 2002

For 6 House incumbents, it's a shoo-in
Most incumbents face either no or lightly rated opposition, but one race in a redrawn North Suncoast district will bear watching.

Petition effort fails to win place on ballot
TAMPA -- U.S. Rep. Jim Davis was surprised to learn Friday that he had automatically won re-election to Congress.

July 16, 2002

Doctors hope cash can move legislation
An unusually blunt fundraising letter states a desire that $10,000 donations will get the attention of top lawmakers.

July 8, 2002

Libertarians line up for Legislature
In 2000, two Libertarians ran for the state House. This year, 87 will be on the ballot because of a redistricting loophole.

July 3, 2002

Judges uphold redrawn districts
A challenge to the Legislature's new districts is rejected, pitting, among others, high-profile candidates Ginny Brown-Waite and incumbent Karen Thurman.

July 2, 2002

Social Security examined
A series of GOP proposals to privatize the system are discussed at the Shady Hills gathering.

State legislators want to hear from you today
NEW PORT RICHEY -- Two state legislators want to get some feedback from residents about work done in Tallahassee this year.

Justice Department wants state House districts redrawn
The Legislature's new House districts violate the rights of Hispanics in Collier County, a federal official says.

June 21, 2002

Redistricting question left to judges
No decision is expected before next week in a series of lawsuits involving lines for congressional and legislative districts.

Groups sue over amendment law
They say a new state law requiring price tags for citizen ballot initiatives is unconstitutional.

June 3, 2002

Parties battle over district lines
The fighting over new boundaries for congressional and legislative districts enters the trial phase today.

May 31, 2002

Groups want tax measure off ballot
The amendment doesn't clearly tell voters that it would delegate tax decisions to a committee, opponents say.

Argenziano: Bush out of touch
"He's not in the same grassroots universe I'm in," the Crystal River Republican says, referring to the governor's veto of a waterway council.

May 20, 2002

Even Republicans find budget troubling
The budget relies on one-time money sources, raising concerns about large shortfalls next year.

May 18, 2002

The maps are drawn, so are the battle lines
It's clear that Florida's redistricting fight is far from over.

May 17, 2002

Veterans' privacy bill slides through
Opponents fear the trend toward greater government secrecy is too restrictive to the public.

May 15, 2002

Bush torn over Everglades bill
Should he sign or veto the crucial funding measure -- which also restricts challenges to development projects on environmental grounds?

May 14, 2002

Hart won't run for House
The South Tampa Republican's decision revives Democrats' hopes for a seat in GOP hands since 1994.

College funding plan keeps getting held back
A new delay surfaces as the state splits with the company that would manage the program.

May 13, 2002

Raids on fund nettle faithful
State lawmakers dip into Preservation 2000 money to cover holes in the budget, angering investors who had parks in mind.

May 11, 2002

No sales tax holiday
The Florida Legislature plans to end the back-to-school sales tax break in a budget that raises tuition and spends more on security.

Local projects benefit from Byrd's role in House
The state budget still contains funds for an Alzheimer's research center and the cancer center.

May 9, 2002

Senate okays ballot price tags
The governor and some lawmakers want prices affixed to citizen-led ballot initiatives.

May 6, 2002

A taut leader
TALLAHASSEE -- Sometimes, Frank Brogan can't believe he's here.

May 4, 2002

2 houses finally agree on new financial officer
Unanimous votes in the House and Senate end feuding and clear the way for one GOP candidate to seek the job.

Senate approves corporate tax break
TALLAHASSEE -- The Florida Senate passed a controversial corporate tax break Friday, paving the way for final negotiations on the state's $49-billion budget.

Health care bill goes to governor
The Legislature sent a bill to Gov. Jeb Bush Friday that helps some low-income people get health insurance while raising premiums as much as 50 percent for nearly 100,000 self-employed Floridians.

Court okays state legislative districts map
The Supreme Court says the districts pass the applicable tests. Map foes vow to continue the battle.

May 3, 2002

Bill may settle tiff over regulator's job
A compromise on the structure of the state's chief financial officer post promises to end a legislative deadlock.

House okays budget; will Senate?
Senate Republicans say they have exactly the 21 votes required to pass a similar spending plan.

Health bill fosters ill will in House
The Senate president's wife lobbies for a portion of the measure that breezes through the Senate and is up for a House vote today.

May 2, 2002

Lawmakers to revisit law to help protect kids
"Abysmal" casework on a Miami girl prompts the expansion of a special session to address abuse files.

GOP senators seek corporate tax package
The majority leader predicts the controversial measure will pass today. Democrats call it a $262-million giveaway.

Each side adds twist to voting map fight
Republicans announce they've already sent the map for a legal review. Meanwhile, Democrats win a legal maneuver.

Deal lets Bush pick 9 judges
The House-Senate agreement lets voters elect nine others.

May 1, 2002

Democrats decry timing of Bush proposal
They say the governor is trying to derail an amendment to reduce class sizes.

School code bill finally okayed
TALLAHASSEE -- The Senate easily passed a massive bill Tuesday updating state education laws, less than a month after failing to pass the measure during a special session.

Bush enters dispute over regulating banks, insurance
TALLAHASSEE -- Gov. Jeb Bush on Tuesday stepped into a legislative battle over regulating the state's banking and insurance industries in an effort to reach a compromise that has eluded legislators for three years.

April 30, 2002

Tax cut for business gets initial okay
In the first move of the special session, a bill is sent to the full Senate that includes a $262-million tax break for business.

April 28, 2002

Lawmaker's legacy is refusal to conform
As state Sen. Ginny Brown-Waite aims for Congress, backers and critics remember her as a Republican willing to defy industry groups and her own party.

April 27, 2002

Health issues may rise again
TALLAHASSEE -- With armies of lobbyists on all sides, legislators are working behind the scenes to add a major health care bill to the special session that begins Monday.

April 26, 2002

Rerouting preservation dollars causes an outcry
Environmentalists are outraged that the state budget plan takes $100-million from a land preservation fund.

April 25, 2002

Phone bill override vote not on leaders' agenda
TALLAHASSEE -- The talk in the Capitol on Wednesday focused on whether the Legislature will try to override Gov. Jeb Bush's veto of a phone rate increase during a legislative session next week.

April 24, 2002

Lawmakers secure budget deal
But they failed to settle the duties of the chief financial officer and differences over the state education code.

Bush kills phone rate increase
The governor vetoes the legislature's most controversial bill and some, including fellow Republicans, say he did it to curry favor in an election year.

April 23, 2002

Parties tussle over districts
Legislators take their clash over a new map of state House and Senate districts to the Florida Supreme Court today.

Issues unsettled, but special session still likely next week
TALLAHASSEE -- Gov. Jeb Bush said Monday he still plans to call legislators back in special session next week but is still trying to work out an agreement on three contentious issues.

New laws ease life for crime victims
The governor signs bills meant to aid victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and other crimes.

Bush supports phone rate bill in part, he says
Though it may raise local rates, he thinks it will foster competition. But the PSC's level of authority concerns him.

April 21, 2002

Phone rate flap to land in PSC's lap
A proposed phone rate increase has put the Public Service Commission in the middle of a storm of political finger-pointing.

Lawmaker battled cancer, now ouster
TALLAHASSEE -- It was the first week of her first legislative session as a state lawmaker, and Sara Romeo had a headache that wouldn't quit.

April 19, 2002

Bush set to summon special session
The convening of legislators in May is another try at hammering out the state budget and a new education code.

April 17, 2002

Governor enters growing battle over redistricting
He says the attorney general is asking a court to trample on the Legislature.

April 16, 2002

Redistricting battles may bump election schedule
JACKSONVILLE -- A three-judge federal panel trying to resolve challenges to Florida's 25 new congressional districts confronted the possibility Monday that election deadlines might be in jeopardy.

Temple Terrace opposes new lines
Redistricting would put the small city in two state House districts, two Senate districts and three congressional districts.

April 13, 2002

Special interest money poured into tax fight
TALLAHASSEE -- When state senators created a fundraising group to sell the public on the virtues of changing Florida's tax system, they promised to gather support from "individual citizens."

April 12, 2002

Bush okays new rules for road, rail
The controversial transportation bill allows Hillsborough and Pinellas to seek sales tax increases.

Bush signs 9 bills into law
Gov. Jeb Bush signed nine bills into law Thursday, including measures that make changes to the state's Capitol Police force, drug-free workplace and vocational rehabilitation programs, and adds protections for older children in foster care.

April 11, 2002

Bush opposes ballot measure in drug fight
State officials call the proposed amendment an attempt to legalize drug use, while its backers say it would save millions of dollars in prison costs.

April 10, 2002

Bush floats deal on education bill
He suggests deleting the controversial religious rights section and, instead, outlining rights in a student handbook.

Parties prep for legal duels on redistricting
Court dates are set to hear challenges to political power lines drawn by the GOP-dominated Legislature.

April 9, 2002

Butterworth pans redistricting plan
The attorney general asks Florida justices to reject "contorted" Senate and House maps drawn by legislators.

Social services agency probed
A committee is looking at whether the Department of Children and Families mishandled supervision.

Florida still ranks poorly in delayed education study
The foundation that did the study released it months later than planned after reviewing data from the governor's staff.

April 7, 2002

Brown-Waite: 'It was very contentious'
The term-limited state senator has many things to say about this legislative session. Few of them are good.

Everglades deal could be unmaking of activist
An environmentalist who rose from outsider to insider in state politics is now being called a sellout.

April 6, 2002

Legislature fails to update school laws
The special session founders on senators' objections to language on students' religious freedoms.

April 5, 2002

Bush signs billboard compensation bill into law
The law does not affect counties that have bans on erecting new billboards.

Study hints at decade of gains for manatees
Good news outweighs the bad for the state's endangered sea cow. But experts warn it still faces significant threats.

Bush disavows group, tactics
A Republican legislator's group speculates on Democrat Janet Reno's drinking habits and sexual orientation.

Religion, class size stir up school bill
A final vote by the House and Senate is scheduled for today, the end of the special session.

Battling sides unite over phone bill subsidy plan
TALLAHASSEE -- In the midst of a feud over raising phone rates, the battling sides appeared to come together Thursday to launch a program to recruit low-income Floridians into a program to subsidize their bills.

Press a state stamp on your next letter
TALLAHASSEE -- Want to remind your friends and relatives that you live in the land of sandy beaches and sunshine? Stick the new "Greetings from FLORIDA" stamp on your next round of holiday cards.

April 2, 2002

Legislative prayer: 'Oh, God, here we go again'
A senator calls for divine help as lawmakers turn to business left over from the regular session.

April 2, 2002

Pleas pour in on phone rate bill
Butterworth lambastes the measure as phone companies buy ads and urge that Gov. Bush approve local rate hikes.

Feeney says 1-day session possible
However, an earlier House-Senate agreement on revising the school code might not hold.

April 1, 2002

1,800-page bill would finish education overhaul
Lawmakers return this week for a special session that will focus on a 1,800-page bill updating the school code.

Breath device deters repeat DUI offenders
Drivers convicted twice would have to pass a breath test before their cars start under a bill the Legislature passed.

March 29, 2002

State pension fund chief to retire
Tom Herndon says scrutiny of the pension fund's $320-million loss on Enron stock had nothing to do with his decision to step down.

Lawmaker's office a bully pulpit for opposition to gay adoptions
TALLAHASSEE -- Florida state Rep. Randy Ball sent out a letter on his House stationery Thursday that featured a religious diatribe against homosexuals -- part of his increasingly public defense of a state law that prevents gay people from adopting children.

March 25, 2002

Session was struggle for environment
Environmentalists win a victory with Everglades funding, but lose with bills stifling development foes and relaxing toll road feasibility standards.

March 24, 2002

Session of squabbling produces little
Consumers will see the effects of many bills passed by the Legislature -- and many that failed. Some could be reconsidered in special session.

Senate president relishes victory after bill passes
TALLAHASSEE -- Savoring the moment, John McKay leaned back, a glass of champagne in his hand.

Rewriting of code stays on to-do list
TALLAHASSEE -- Education was supposed to be a top priority of the 2002 Legislature. It turned out to be one of its biggest failures.

Session reveals division in GOP
From a battle between party titans to senators ripping Gov. Jeb Bush, Republicans find leading can have a high price.

Winners & Losers

Cloud over Sunshine Law mostly dissipated
Only a few of a record number of proposed exemptions to open records passed.

March 23, 2002

Legislators leave much undone
They must return to agree on a budget, education laws and a new Cabinet job's duties.

Tailored Congress districts approved
Now the court battle begins over the districts drawn to keep the U.S. House firmly in GOP hands.

Legislature in brief
Voters could make it harder to close records

March 22, 2002

Legislators struggle to cut deal
Comptroller Bob Milligan says he will challenge fellow Republican Tom Gallagher for chief financial officer.

Phone rates bill in Bush's hands
TALLAHASSEE -- Monthly phone bills in the Tampa Bay area are expected to rise as much as $5 over the next five years under a plan overwhelmingly approved by the state Legislature and awaiting the governor's signature.

Legislature in brief
Today is the final day of the 60-day session.

Senate confirms Bush's PSC choice
A former legislator from St. Petersburg will join the Public Service Commission.

March 21, 2002

Cameras might pan nursing home rooms
The Senate advances a bill to start a one-year pilot security program in two care centers. Now the House must consider it.

Bill seeks clearer path to nursing
As hospitals scrounge to find and keep nurses, lawmakers step up with a bill that may remove roadblocks to recruitment and training.

New Cabinet post still lacks job description
State legislators have yet to agree on the duties of the new chief financial officer, whom voters will elect in November.

Poll: Let's rethink high-speed rail
State Chamber of Commerce members overwhelmingly want voters to take another look.

Plan to raise phone bills hits Senate resistance
TALLAHASSEE -- A controversial proposal to raise phone bills as much as $5 monthly over the next five years in the Tampa Bay area received strong opposition in the Senate, making its fate once again uncertain.

Bush tries to end budget disputes plaguing session
The governor urges both chambers to have a public conference to resolve differences.

Senators offer farewells to departing colleagues
Don Sullivan's voice cracked Wednesday as he recalled eight years as a state senator, beginning with his bicycling from St. Petersburg to Tallahassee.

Bills make environmentalists howl
The bills at issue tap the land buying fund and limit billboard rules and development challenges.

March 20, 2002

Senate advances new congressional districts
Lawmakers might need a special session to resolve differences between House and Senate plans.

Measure could unseal complaints on judges
The bill is designed to push the agency that oversees judges to be more aggressive and accountable.

Health insurance bill's makeover turns the tide
The proposal by Rep. Frank Farkas sails through the House, but only after he makes major changes to it.

'Doctor of the day' has serious start in capital
Dr. Skip Beeler from Kennedy Space Center revives a lobbyist who was in cardiac arrest.

Lawmakers must deal with dueling budgets
A move by House Speaker Tom Feeney leaves legislators pondering competing plans as the clock ticks.

March 19, 2002

State budget and redistricting in play as leaders joust
Amendments in the Senate move the two chambers closer on some spending. Districts for Congress also remain unsettled.

Seeking a health insurance option
Under intense criticism, Rep. Frank Farkas broadens his plan to help uninsured employees.

House okays tax exemption review
The Senate president snubs the idea, which would make it difficult to repeal existing tax breaks.

House passes tough rules for abortion clinics
TALLAHASSEE -- Doctors who perform abortions would have to meet the same standards as outpatient surgery centers under a bill approved Monday by the Florida House.

March 18, 2002

Public is seen, but not heard
Floridians visiting the Capitol to address lawmakers at committee meetings are finding themselves routinely squelched.

March 16, 2002

Phone charges may be on rise
In the name of competition, the House approves a new measure that could raise your bill by $5 over the next five years.

House measure covers school walls
An education bill, one of several approved, requires that eight historical documents be displayed.

March 15, 2002

House passes tax breaks
The bill, which serves up $200-million in tax breaks to businesses in the coming year, surprised the Senate.

Senate budget looking more like House's
But some major differences remain, and tension between the chambers may make compromises difficult.

March 14, 2002

Senator's end run puts halt on McKay tax idea
The Senate president posed an alternate tax plan, but another senator trumped it with a more business-friendly version.

Bill's goal: more jurors, fewer felons
The Senate has passed the measure, which would expand criminal checks and update addresses.

Legislature in brief
Today is the 52nd day of the 60-day session.

Senate voting flurry chips at open records law
In a frantic rush, senators sign off on 14 exemptions to the state's Sunshine Law.

March 13, 2002

McKay backs off tax reform
The move, after weeks of devotion, follows news of an unexpected economic rebound.

Bill to ban cloning worries some lawmakers
The House passed the bill Tuesday, but some say it could hamper treatments such as in vitro fertilization.

Bush's education nominee approved
The Senate committee splits along party lines in okaying Phil Handy as chairman of the state Board of Education.

Legislature in brief
Today is the 51st day of the 60-day session.

March 12, 2002

U.S. funds for fast train tied to state stake
U.S. House members want Legislature's assurances it is committed to the project.

March 11, 2002

Deceptive lending bills spark fight
As consumer groups urge the Legislature to strictly regulate predatory lending, the financial industry fights to protect the business.

March 7, 2002

Incumbents behold redrawn districts
Republicans and Democrats are considering their options as legislative districts are redrawn.

Senator breaks ranks on tax plan
By opposing the tax plan, the senate majority leader gives an edge to those hoping to defeat it.

Actor joins in rally criticizing Florida's GOP
Two years ago, 11,000 people marched on Tallahassee to protest Gov. Jeb Bush's One Florida plan to reshape affirmative action. It was, organizers said, the largest civil rights march in Florida since Reconstruction.

House measure would slash pay for school boards
The measure, part of the "must-pass" education bill, would reimburse expenses but make the jobs volunteer.

Bill pulls $5-million from conservation fund
The money taken from a state trust fund would help pay for economic development in five counties, including Hillsborough.

March 6, 2002

House puts stamp on redistricting
Denying all requests by Democrats, Republicans tentatively okay a deal that redraws voting districts.

March 5, 2002

Senator remains devoted to education
The St. Petersburg Republican is frustrated by others in his party, but he hasn't given up yet.

Court brouhaha brews over redistricting
Some Democrats want to work on a redistricting compromise, but others like Rep. Bob Henriquez of Tampa huddle with lawyers.

Bush lobbies to line up Senate votes
The governor wants Republicans to kill a budget proposal that ties ending tax breaks to education spending.

Senators sneer at foes of Indian bill
The measure to end state jurisdiction over Miccosukee lands catches some opponents by surprise.

Bill widely expands secrecy in government
The quickly and quietly moving measure has Sunshine Law advocates howling.

March 2, 2002

House approves a budget
Final passage is next. Ahead: a dustup with the Senate over its plan, containing tax changes Speaker Feeney calls "fanciful."

Miccosukee bill alarms law enforcement officials
TALLAHASSEE -- A bill orchestrated by influential lobbyists who want to eliminate state law enforcement jurisdiction over Miccosukee Indian land is heading quickly to the House floor.

March 1, 2002

Senate cuts funds for sewer project
Proposed funding for the Chassahowitzka sewer system is reduced by $400,000, but enough money is available for the work to move forward.

Bills seek new abortion clinic regulations
Clinics would face new requirements, and doctors would face more paperwork. Critics say it's an attack on legal abortion.

Legislature in brief
Doctors and nurses are squabbling over a bill that would let aides who aren't registered nurses assist anesthesiologists in operating rooms.

Senate okays $900-million tax proposal to help schools
TALLAHASSEE -- Senate budget writers voted Thursday to raise $900-million more for schools by taxing public relations, lobbying, computer software, tanning beds and other services for one year. But the House is expected to pass a budget today without the additional money, forcing a showdown with three weeks left in the regular session.

Feb. 28, 2002

Tax plan turns eye to leisure activities
Senators suggest funding education by raising some taxes. The House speaker and governor quickly frown on the idea.

Indian land may be closed to state
Critics say a bill to put Miccosukee reservations under federal law will make them a haven for criminals.

Senate okays scratch-off bingo
Attorney General Bob Butterworth and Gov. Jeb Bush say the measure flouts the state Constitution and exposes charities to victimization.

Legislature in brief
Today is the 38th day of the 60-day session.

Feb. 27, 2002

Tax plan opposition may cost broadcasters
Senate leader John McKay seeks legislative scrutiny of Florida broadcasters' share of tax dollars.

Governor frets over legislative stalemate
So far, no substantial bills have reached his desk since the session began last month.

Feb. 26, 2002

Feisty politico forges enemies as he tackles the issues
Now Phil Handy finds himself unable to attain a routine confirmation as chairman of the new state Board of Education.

Feb. 25, 2002

McKay stays the course on tax plan
To make his case, the Senate president will link the tax system to problems in the schools.

Democrats tiptoe on tax plan
Most candidates for governor decline to be specific about the McKay proposal.

Feb. 23, 2002

Official works for reduced TV tax
Consumers eventually could save $3 to $6 a month if a lawmaker is successful in phasing out a tax on cable and satellite TV.

Feb. 22, 2002

Effort to open judicial inquiries moves forward
But the bill, passed by the Judicial Oversight Committee, is opposed by judges and others.

Bills may loosen toll road rules
The measures would allow the state to build toll roads without worrying about whether they'd make money.

Session lacks key to tax deadlock
With only two bills passed midway through the session, lawmakers look for ways to move on to other issues.

Democrats question pension fund hire
They say Coleman Stipanovich was reprimanded in a previous job.

Feb. 21, 2002

House slams tax reform
Sponsor John McKay, the Senate president, is unfazed, insisting that his plan is not dead. "We're going to have tax reform this session."

Feb. 20, 2002

Feeney makes House a weapon
Speaker Tom Feeney will make the House into a "committee of the whole" to crush a sales tax proposal.

Disabled voting bill clears panel
Election supervisors worry that the bill would require costly changes to new equipment counties are buying.

Bill ties superintendent pay, pupil performance
The school officials would feel it in their wallets if third-graders are promoted without being able to read.

Feb. 19, 2002

Bush peppered on school spending
TALLAHASSEE -- Under fire on several fronts for his school spending record, Gov. Jeb Bush's administration sought on Monday to shift the debate away from numbers and back to the governor's school reforms.

Pasco dominates Senate seat in plan
Most Pasco County residents would be in the same state Senate district under a plan a state House of Representatives group approved Monday.

Budget threatens inspections
It hasn't been so long since Jerry Provost made his living checking out hotel fire alarms and restaurant cleanliness.

Farkas' plan: Davis gets I-4 district
TALLAHASSEE -- U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young would keep St. Petersburg under one of three congressional redistricting plans adopted Monday by a House committee.

Once again, Bush's pick is put on hold
TALLAHASSEE -- A Senate simmering with discontent has decided to let Phil Handy, one of Gov. Jeb Bush's top appointees, twist slowly in the wind for awhile.

Feb. 17, 2002

Bush oversells his spending on schools
The governor boasts of historic education spending on his watch. But with inflation, the amount Florida spent per student over the past three years rose just $10, A Time analysis shows.

Feb. 15, 2002

Key senators cite gaps in Bush budget
The governor underfunds programs, say lawmakers who oversee school and social services spending.

Legislator questions firm's part in lawsuit
TALLAHASSEE -- House Minority Leader Lois Frankel says lawyers with ties to Gov. Jeb Bush should not represent the state in a lawsuit against Enron because they might try to cover up anything that would embarrass "certain political figures."

Feb. 15, 2002

Voucher bill heads to full House
TALLAHASSEE -- A radical measure to give a private school voucher to any public school student who wants it sailed through its only committee stop Thursday and is headed for the House chamber floor.

Public hearings report bashes Senate tax plan
TALLAHASSEE -- Rep. Johnnie Byrd didn't have to say a word. The contented faces of the lobbyists said it all.

State sues to close Miss Cleo
TALLAHASSEE -- With cards in hand, Attorney General Bob Butterworth picked up his telephone Thursday and pretended to make a telephone call.

Money to track cows is cut out
Senators deride Bush anti-terror budget plan

Legislature in brief
Today is the 25th day of the 60-day session.

Feb. 14, 2002

Task force wants tighter reins on vouchers
A panel wants to give parents of students with disabilities a choice in how they pay private schools.

Legislature in brief
Today is the 24th day of the 60-day session.

New tactic in tax fight: financial disclosure
Foes of the Senate tax revision plan reveal their backers and call on fans of the measure to show their contributor lists.

Senate committee rejects its budget for school needs
School districts may have to raise taxes to give schools what they need, said the panel, unhappy over education funding.

Feb. 13, 2002

GOP leaders doff gloves in debate of tax proposal
An already contentious debate turns personal for the House speaker and the Senate president.

State criticizes private program for foster kids
The company that handles Pinellas and Pasco has poor case files because of overworked staffers, the DCF says.

House passes school prayer bill
When the House passed similar legislation in the spring and fall, the Senate never took it up.

Lawmaker: Investigate agency
Rep. Bill Andrews wants to know whether fraud was committed in the state Occupational Access and Opportunity Commission.

Legislature in brief
Today is the 23rd day of the 60-day session.

Feb. 12, 2002

House leader suggests quick death for tax plan
TALLAHASSEE -- The Florida House sent its strongest signal yet Monday that the Senate's tax plan will be dead on arrival.

Tallahassee Verbatim
The Senate's proposed tax overhaul has sparked one of the biggest legislative debates in years. Here are the key arguments, excerpted from a letter by Gov. Jeb Bush and a rebuttal by Sen. Ken Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie:

Democrats delay education confirmation
TALLAHASSEE -- Senate Democrats on Monday temporarily blocked the confirmation of Phil Handy, chairman of the state Board of Education, in a highly partisan maneuver designed to send a message to Gov. Jeb Bush.

Feb. 11, 2002

The man behind TV's antitax ads
TALLAHASSEE -- Pat Roberts has been called dishonest by the president of the Florida Senate. Senators accuse him of spreading lies about a plan to change the tax system.

Feb. 10, 2002

House's speaker-to-be had a quick rise to the top
TALLAHASSEE -- The day after state Rep. Johnnie Byrd secured a second term with a resounding 80 percent of the vote, he decided to explore the state.

Panel sees urgent need for tax reform
Florida urgently needs to broaden and diversify its tax base, says a panel of civic leaders, public officials and university scholars called together this weekend by former Gov. Reubin Askew.

Feb. 8, 2002

Bush says enough taxes are enough
TALLAHASSEE -- Gov. Jeb Bush lowered the boom on the Senate's controversial tax plan Thursday, calling it "flawed" and saying Florida's taxes are adequate to meet the state's needs.

Angry crowd lashes lawmaker over lack of public testimony
TALLAHASSEE -- A crowd of angry consumers hoping to testify against a health insurance bill exploded in anger Thursday when the panel's chairman, Rep. Frank Farkas of St. Petersburg, pushed through a vote on his own bill without allowing public testimony.

Bush pulls plan to privatize office
Under his proposal to privatize state personnel services, 1,287 positions would have been lost.

Legislature in brief
Today is the 18th day of the 60-day session.

Feb. 7, 2002

Bush proposes $470-million in new programs
Lawmakers can reject his plans in the next state budget, but they usually stick fairly close to the suggestions.

McKay calls Bush's tax stance 'mind-boggling'
The war of wills is heating up over the Senate President John McKay's plan to revamp taxes.

Legislature in brief
A bill moving in the House would ban state financial aid for university students who are citizens of countries the U.S. State Department says support terrorism.

Feb. 6, 2002

Governor says he will reject McKay sales tax plan
The Senate president expresses disappointment, says he expected more dialogue from Bush.

House votes to re-enact 'Three Strikes' law
The law is adjusted to meet court requirements following the original being struck down by an appeals court.

Feb. 4, 2002

Momentum builds to increase security measures
Proposed bills would toughen penalties and ID rules. But some question whether any of them would stop terrorists.

Feb. 3, 2002

Lawmakers push security measures
TALLAHASSEE -- Not one person has been arrested since Tampa police hooked up face-scanning software to videocameras in Ybor City, but some state lawmakers still want to use the technology to screen people applying for driver's licenses.

Feb. 1, 2002

Senate okay sets up tax fight
A battle in the House over sales tax reform may hold up budget and redistricting work.

Legislative briefs
Today is the 11th day of the 60-day session.

Suncoast lawmakers in top ranks of nature-friendly
Several Tampa Bay lawmakers got high marks from environmentalists in the annual Florida League of Conservation Voters scorecard released Thursday.

Jan. 31, 2002

Tax reform critics see signs of vengeance and 'politics'
Sen. McKay responds: "I'm lobbying people, not threatening them." He says he's the one being treated unfairly by TV stations.

In tax plan, some see hope, some see doom
Today, the Senate is expected to approve shifting $4-billion of the sales tax burden to services. House prospects are uncertain.

Troxler: One battle where truth is trumped by politics
TALLAHASSEE -- Suppose that somebody is saying something that you think is untrue. Not only do they say it, but they publish it. Not only do they publish it, but they put a bunch of commercials on television.

Legislative briefs
Today is the 10th day of the 60-day session.

Jan. 30, 2002

Drive to limit justices' terms stalls
Critics say the bill would give the governor too much power and leave the Supreme Court beholden to legislators.

Legislative briefs
Today is the ninth day of the 60-day session.

Jan. 29, 2002

Howard Troxler
Debate over new position is lost in sea of big issues
TALLAHASSEE -- In any other year, the fight over who gets to regulate insurance, state-chartered banking and securities in this state might be the biggest news in town. What could be more important than the protection of the homes, health and savings of Floridians?

Senators criticize TV stations for tax ads
TALLAHASSEE -- Senators who want to overhaul Florida's tax system went on the offensive Monday, demanding that TV stations yank "misleading" ads and seeking free air time to respond.

Beaches left out of budget proposal
WASHINGTON -- When President Bush's new budget is unveiled next week, it could hit Floridians in two crucial areas: sand and asphalt.

TV ad about tax plan gets wrong legislator
Sen. Alex Villalobos of Miami doesn't mind being the target of TV ads criticizing him for supporting Senate President John McKay's tax plan. But he sure doesn't like it when a TV ad confuses him with Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla.

Jan. 27, 2002

The Republicrat
Steve Uhlfelder is a close friend of Gov. Jeb Bush -- and of one of his opponents. What's a power broker to do?

Jan. 26, 2002

Tax reform plan chalks up a win
As the sales tax reform is hotly debated around Florida, a Senate panel okays two related tax measures.

Senate takes stab at redistricting
TALLAHASSEE -- A state Senate committee on Friday approved the first redistricting plan of the 2002 Legislature, creating 25 districts for Florida's U.S. House seats.

Jan. 25, 2002

Office love loophole attacked
Lawmakers, affronted by a Tampa scandal, rush to add "paramours" to antinepotism ethics statutes.

Tensions mount in tax debate
TALLAHASSEE -- From haircuts to overnight mail, nearly 100 services in Florida would be taxed under a bold and controversial Senate plan to broaden Florida's tax base.

3 in Congress ask that court draw districts
TALLAHASSEE -- Florida's three black members of the U.S. House of Representatives sued the state Thursday to get a South Florida court to draw the lines for new congressional districts.

Taking another swing at '3 strikes'
TALLAHASSEE -- Legislative leaders are moving quickly to plug the legal hole created when a state appeals court struck down one of the Republican Party's most cherished anti-crime bills: The "three strikes" law.

Bill could deter rape pregnancies
A Democratic legislator wants to require hospitals and other health care facilities to inform rape victims of the so-called "morning after pill" that can prevent pregnancy.

Jan. 24, 2002

In lean year, turkeys stuff budget
After carving $1-billion from the budget, legislators serve up more in pet projects.

'Three strikes' law is out for now
An appellate court throws out the law on tougher sentences for repeat offenders. The decision now goes to the Supreme Court.

Bush says tax reform might hurt business
"We are not undertaxed in this state," he says, referring to the McKay tax proposals.

Agency moves to reduce woodpecker's protection
Despite criticism from scientists and environmental groups, members of the state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission voted Wednesday to approve the next step in downgrading the ranking of the red-cockaded woodpecker on Florida's endangered species list.

Education commissioner faces 2nd ethics complaint
TALLAHASSEE -- A second ethics complaint has been filed against Education Commissioner Charlie Crist over his travels and handling of campaign money in his race for attorney general.

Bill lays out structure of financial officer post
TALLAHASSEE -- For the third consecutive year, lawmakers are trying to figure out how banking and insurance will be regulated in this state.

Plans for tribute take high road
Some Democrats agree to honor President Reagan, but perhaps not by renaming a road.

Legislature briefs
Today is the third day of the 60-day session.

Jan. 23, 2002

Bush touts progress on schools
As the governor introduces a more modest agenda in his State of the State speech, his critics question his assessment of Florida education.

Voters likely to hear two takes on education
TALLAHASSEE -- Does it seem, as Gov. Jeb Bush declared Tuesday, that Florida's schools are improving to a degree "nothing short of amazing?"

Legislative briefs
Today is the second day of the 60-day session.

Lucy Morgan
Political rancor lies beneath sweetness and light
On the surface it looked like a love-in.

Jan. 22, 2002

Clouds gather over McKay's tax proposal
TALLAHASSEE -- Rain, overcast skies and mounting opposition to a controversial tax plan greeted lawmakers Monday as they gathered for a final round of fundraising and partying before settling in for today's start of the legislative session.

State grand jury suggests reversal of records law
TALLAHASSEE -- For more than a century, Florida law has presumed that all records are open to public scrutiny.

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