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the state REPORT

House, Senate split on halting tuition plan

Rep. Marlene O'Toole, who oversees the House's higher education spending, said she's opposed to her Senate counterpart's proposal to cut off enrollment in the Florida Prepaid College program. "I'm a Florida Prepaid supporter," said O'Toole, R-Lady Lake. "I'm not in agreement with closing" the program. Florida Prepaid lets parents lock in present-day tuition and fees for their future students. The state provides a full guarantee of the tuition contracts. As of last year, the program had about $10 billion in assets and $9.5 billion in liabilities. O'Toole said she hadn't had a chance to talk to Sen. Evelyn Lynn, chairwoman of the higher education budget subcommittee, about the proposal released Thursday. O'Toole said she was surprised by the news and didn't understand the reasoning. "I believe they're financially sound," she said of the program.

Biden, Palin will visit Wednesday

Looks like Vice President Joe Biden won't be the only heavyweight pol in Florida Wednesday. The Naples Daily News reports that Sarah Palin, fresh off her trip to Israel, will hold a 6 p.m. town hall meeting that night at the Ritz-Carlton. Biden will headline fundraisers for Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in Tampa and Winter Park.

Republicans push for veto override

The House State Affairs Committee on Friday recommended that the full chamber vote to override former Gov. Charlie Crist's veto of a controversial campaign finance bill that restores so-called leadership funds. Committee Chairman Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland, said any opposition to the bill was from a "misunderstanding" of what the changes would accomplish. "There shouldn't be opposition to this bill," McKeel said. Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, acknowledged the bill was not perfect, but included important changes. That sparked Rep. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, to question why GOP leaders wanted to override the veto instead of putting the proposal through the legislative process. About one-third of the Florida House includes new members who did not debate the bill, which would resurrect lawmakers' access to potent partisan fundraising machines known as leadership funds.

Is LeMieux in the race? Maybe

We caught up with former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux in Hudson on Thursday. He's not quite in the race to challenge Sen. Nelson and get his old job back ("I am considering it"), but he sure sounds like a candidate. "People are worried about the future of this country" he said. "They're worried about the debt and deficit. … Unfortunately it's far worse than most know. It's what keeps me up at night." During an interview before a speech, LeMieux turned a question about Sen. Marco Rubio into a thinly veiled shot at his potential primary opponent, Senate President Mike Haridopolos. He said he called Rubio to compliment him on a radio interview in which Rubio said he isn't thinking about higher office — he wants to focus on doing well in his current gig. "I think that's a good lesson for all of the folks who would seek the Senate seat," LeMieux said.

Times staff writers Jodie Tillman, Michael C. Bender, Lee Logan and Adam C. Smith contributed to this report.

the state REPORT 03/18/11 [Last modified: Friday, March 18, 2011 9:58pm]
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