A bill designed to protect city-owned sports facilities from payment of property taxes won unanimous approval from the House Finance and Tax Committee on Wednesday. The bill, sponsored by Rules Chairman Peter Wallace, D-St. Petersburg, and Rep. Mimi McAndrews, D-Royal Palm Beach, was drafted after a 1993 Supreme Court decision found cities liable for county property taxes when they lease land for non-governmental purposes. Counties already are exempt from payment of property taxes when they lease publicly owned land. The bill would allow St. Petersburg to lease the ThunderDome to private businesses without becoming liable for additional taxes.
Contraception bill rejected
A bill that would pay women on welfare not to have children failed to pass a House committee on Wednesday. The bill, sponsored by Reps. George Albright, R-Ocala, and Ron Glickman, D-Tampa, would have paid women on welfare $100 per quarter for 10 years if they used long-term contraception such as Norplant. Or the women could receive money toward education or a dental voucher. The bill also would have allowed low-income men 21 to 30 to get a free vasectomy, plus $500. Glickman said it's a way to help people break out of the cycle of welfare. The bill is expected to come up for another vote next week in the House Aging and Human Services Committee.
Anti-smoking plan sputtering
A bill to ban smoking in restaurants is about to go up in smoke. Rep. Suzanne Jacobs, D-Delray Beach, proposed the ban, then offered a compromise to ban smoking in 75 percent of each establishment's space. Current law requires restaurants with more than 50 seats to designate a non-smoking area of 35 percent or more. The bill was left pending in a House committee after an amendment from Rep. Buddy Johnson, R-Plant City, was passed. It allows restaurants to get a rebate on their sales tax collections if they voluntarily ban smoking. That action pulled the bill into two more committees, likely dooming it on procedural grounds.
Three inducted in Hall of Fame
S. Attorney General Janet Reno and two former Tampa women were inducted into the Florida Women's Hall of Fame at a ceremony headed by Gov. Lawton Chiles Wednesday. Reno could not be on hand to accept the award. Betty Skelton Frankman of Winter Haven, a graduate of Plant High School, attended and said she was delighted by the honor. "I'm speechless, and my husband thinks that's a miracle," she said. She has set numerous aviation and auto racing records. Paulina Pedroso, who died in 1925, also was honored. A native of Cuba who later settled in Ybor City, she fought for Cuban independence.
Huxley would be proud
People couldn't help comparing the chemical castration bill to Brave New World, the futuristic novel by Aldous Huxley, during a Senate Criminal Justice Committee meeting Tuesday. Sen. Jim Scott, R-Fort Lauderdale, did. So did a representative of the American Civil Liberties Union. In the novel, society uses drugs to control people's behavior. So far no one has compared it to another futuristic novel, the famous book written by George Orwell. But we couldn't help but notice that the proposed law is officially called "Senate Bill 1984."A shot of family humor
Republican Party Chairman Tom Slade wants to know why Gov. Lawton Chiles didn't bother to drop by and meet Hugh Rodham at his news conference in Tallahassee Tuesday. Rodham was announcing plans to seek the U.S. Senate seat held by Connie Mack. "Even I had the courtesy to drop by his press conference to meet him and hear what he has to offer," Slade wrote in a letter, referring to Rodham as "the top of your ticket." "I must say, (Rodham) gives new dignity to the memory of Billy Carter," Slade wrote. A spokesman for Chiles said the governor was not asked to attend.
Patient brokering bill sails on
Legislation to ban brokers from referring patients to health care facilities for kickbacks, fees or commissions is moving ahead without controversy. The bill Tuesday passed the House Health Care Committee 21-0. The bill targets abuses most prevalent in the recruitment of patients for underused drug treatment centers or psychiatric hospitals. A Times series last year disclosed instances in which brokers got up to $3,000 each for sending patients to hospitals or drug treatment centers.
_ Staff writers Lucy Morgan, Bill Moss and Curtis Krueger contributed to this report.