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For their next little chat, get ringside seats

House Speaker T. K. Wetherell and Rep. Art Simon held a high-level conference the other day. We're talking decibel level.

"Every conversation you have with Art is stimulating," Wetherell said after a pause, when asked about Thursday's shouting match.

Also speaking euphemistically, Simon said: "We had a substantive adult conversation regarding the course and direction of the banking legislation."

Simon's Commerce Committee is drafting a rewrite of Florida's banking regulations. The rewrite goes on against the backdrop of record S & L failures, including the Centrust Bank collapse that became a national symbol of thrift industry profligacy.

Simon wants to write safeguards into the banking code. He wants an ethics code for employees of elected Comptroller Gerald Lewis, more open records in the banking regulator's office and a $100 limit on campaign contributions to Lewis from financial interests he regulates.

Wetherell opposes Simon's ideas on those issues.

"We'll produce a banking bill one way or another," Wetherell said later. "Art will do a good job. He always does."

Stay tuned. More fireworks are expected at Monday's Commerce Committee meeting.

Making light of a weighty issue

If you think the fatso jokes ended in grade school, you haven't been to a meeting of the House Appropriations Committee lately.

At Thursday's meeting, Rep. Jack Tobin, D-Margate, a man of substantial proportions, took the podium to introduce a bill he is sponsoring.

"This is a bill on dietetics and nutrition practice," he started.

And with that, Rep. Jim King, R-Jacksonville, none too slender himself, broke into uncontrollable laughter. Then everybody else cracked up.

Committee Chairman Ron Saunders sobered up the crowd by telling Tobin and King they were angling for a spot on Today in the Legislature, the nightly public television show that highlights the day's proceedings.

But Tobin couldn't resist another crack:

"For those of you who've seen those before-and-after commercials," he said, "I'm the before."

With that, Tobin's bill, which makes a few regulatory changes in the laws governing the dietetics and nutrition professions, was approved.

Hey, it's a start

Everybody here knows that the Senate is a mighty hostile place when it comes to talk of taxes. But Sen. Eleanor Weinstock, D-West Palm Beach, learned just how hard it will be to eke more money for the budget out of her colleagues. During a seven-hour budget debate last week, Weinstock passed a straw hat to raise money for the 1992-93 budget.

Her take _ $9.03.

The amazing T.K. predicts for you

File this away and we'll get back with you in a couple of weeks.

House Speaker Wetherell predicts the redrawing of political lines for the state House and Senate will be less contentious than the drawn-out battle over congressional lines.

The congressional map supported by Democratic leaders passed the House last week. Now, the Reapportionment Committee will start working on the House and Senate maps this week.

"You'll find Republicans and Democrats voting together for a common interest," he said. "There won't be as much caucusing. These things never hold up, anyway."

Next thing to watch, Wetherell says, is health care. Presidential politics will draw attention to health care reforms moving in the state Legislature.

"As the presidential primary begins to unfold, I think it'll gain more and more steam," he said.

Pay cuts a costly idea, UF chief says

State university officials were none too pleased with legislators' idea to chop 3 percent off the salaries of state employees who make more than $60,000 to help solve the budget crisis. That's because a lot of university employees are in that bracket.

But University of Florida President John Lombardi prepared a detailed salary analysis for Gainesville-area legislators to support his contention that the cut will make it hard to recruit more minority and female faculty and administrators.

Apparently, Lombardi isn't kidding when he says he needs help to get women and minorities into high-level jobs.

According to his analysis, 81.3 percent of the 1,433 UF employees making more than $60,000 are white men. White women comprise 10.3 percent; 6.6 percent are minority men; and just 1.8 percent are minority women.

_ Compiled from reports by Charlotte Sutton, Bill Moss and John D. McKinnon.