'REFERENDUM' QUERY IS LOADED, GELBER SAYS
No shock here: The Republican-led Senate passed Senate President Jeff Atwater's proposal (SB 2742) asking voters in November if the federal government should have a balanced budget amendment. Party-line vote: 26-13. But Democrats didn't like the idea of using the ballot to take "nonbinding public opinion polls," in the words of Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale. Said Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville: "It's never wrong to ask the people what they think." Sen. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, said this referendum "is more of a push poll" that's biased and won't shed much light on what people think. Gelber read the language: In order to stop the uncontrolled growth of our national debt and prevent excessive borrowing by the Federal Government, which threatens jobs, robs America and our children of their opportunity for success, and threatens our national security, should the United States Constitution be amended to require a balanced federal budget without raising taxes? The measure still has to be taken up by the House.
One last question: Who runs state?
Middle school students would be required to take a civics class and pass an end-of-course test under a bill (HB 105) that unanimously passed the Florida House on Thursday. Students would have to pass the final exam to be promoted to high school. Lawmakers said the requirement is needed because many citizens don't know the difference between a state legislator and member of Congress.
Waterways plan loses key provision
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, facing heated criticism and pressure from the Florida congressional delegation, is delaying a key component of its plan to clean up Florida's waterways. U.S. Rep. Adam Putnam announced the decision Thursday that the EPA is withdrawing the downstream values protection — the most debated and most stringent part of the new nutrient pollution rules announced in January — and seeking a third-party scientific review. It's a major reversal for the EPA.
Waivers for risk, but not negligence
The trial lawyer lobby is seeing at least a ray of hope that this session isn't a complete disaster, as some predict. The Senate Judiciary Committee agreed to a compromise measure that allows parents to sign liability waivers for their children. SB 2440 would let parents waive inherent risk but not gross negligence, as the House version states. The theme parks didn't agree with the result, but most litigation reform advocates acquiesced to the change. However, the Senate committee had no appetite for trial lawyer-backed amendments on the issue of "slip and fall" lawsuits, SB 2440. Chairman Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, withdrew an amendment to make businesses keep records on accidents, instead offering language to conform with the House version (HB 689), which passed with overwhelming support.
Marc Caputo and John Frank, Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau; Associated Press