Whether to visit Florida in March is the kind of tough decision U.S. senators are paid $133,000 a year to make.
Picking a weekend is no snap, either.
The Blue Jays and the Phillies revive the World Series in Dunedin on the 5th. The Red Sox have the Yanks more than a week later.
But the Senate Judiciary Committee's choice of March 21, a Monday, for its field hearing on baseball's antitrust exemption certainly was made a bit easier by knowledge that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee _ the party's fund-raising arm _ had scheduled a spring-training outing for the adjoining weekend.
From their hotel at Disney World, a handful of Senate Democrats will join with a couple of dozen of the more generous givers for the Tigers-Indians matinee at Chain of Lakes Park in Winter Haven. Sunday means the Pirates versus the Tigers at Lakeland.
And if, as expected, St. Petersburg is the site of the antitrust subcommittee's field hearing the next day, there's additional diversion at Al Lang Stadium, between the Cardinals and the Phillies.
Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee chairman and Florida Sen. Bob Graham, who organized a similar outing in the Tampa Bay area last year, again will play host. About 16 fat cats have confirmed so far, many of them from the "Leadership Circle" to which the price of admission is contributing $15,000 a year to the Senate Democrats.
You can bank on this
While they're in the neighborhood, the Washington visitors might swing down to Florida's 20th congressional district and pick up some fund-raising tips from Rep. Peter Deutsch.
Although a member of one of the largest freshman classes in recent House history, the Lauderhill Democrat has more campaign money in the bank than any other newcomer. There are new members who have raised more, but none has more on hand than Deutsch's $264,000.
While in the state Legislature, Deutsch impressed even Tallahassee by hitting up a lobbyist for campaign cash right in front of a reporter. In Washington, $193,000 of what he raised last year came from PACs.
called class to order
Congress doesn't sit up much straighter _ or faster _ than the nation's home schoolers got it to sit up last week.
People who teach their children at home saw a real potential for trouble in an ambiguous passage of an education bill. They flooded Capitol switchboards with demands to see it removed.
The flood was organized in part by fundamentalist Christian activists, but one measure of the overall zeal was the fact that bay area lawmakers recorded more calls in a single day than there are home schoolers in the area, according to the estimates of both state officials and home-school organizers.
Another measure was the vote _ 424-1 _ that officially declared home schools were not meant to be covered by the bill. In fact, the non-topic dominated the floor debate for hours.
"If those parents teach their children as well as they organize, then those kids are getting a very, very fine education," said Rep. Gerald Solomon, R-N.Y.
Dole targets Florida
Florida Supreme Court Justice Rosemary Barkett was not Bob Dole's only target on the Senate floor last week. In condemning Barkett's nomination to a federal appeals court, the Republican leader also laid into the state where 61 percent of voters chose to keep her on the bench.
"Florida has one of the highest crime rates in the country," Dole said. "Yet, according to one analysis, over 95 percent of the criminals sentenced to prison in Florida serve less than 15 percent of their sentences."
Florida's top prison official disputed those figures.
Department of Corrections Secretary Harry Singleton said the department's most recent study indicates that prisoners are serving an average of 41 percent of their sentences and that violent offenders serve 51 percent.
Nobody's bragging about those figures, but a prison-building plan that passed the state House and Senate appropriations committees last week would increase the average to 75 percent.
Dole did not name the study, and it didn't ring a bell at the offices of the fellow Senate Republican most preoccupied with Florida crime: Connie Mack.
Twice last week Mack issued press releases keyed to savage assaults in his home state. Mack saw fodder for the STOP (Stop Turning Out Prisoners) ballot initiative in both the Ocala National Forest murder/rape and a Jacksonville case in which the offender had served five months of a life sentence.
"This latest insult demonstrates the urgency for Floridians to take control of their security and pass a constitutional amendment to end early prison release," Mack said.
_ Times staff writer Curtis Krueger contributed to this report.