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Election reform heading to conference committee

The state House on Friday rejected Senate changes to election reform legislation, clearing the way for a conference committee to work out a compromise.

Senate President Toni Jennings and House Speaker Daniel Webster will appoint members to a bipartisan committee charged with ironing out differences in the two bills. Legislators are optimistic about producing a broad reform bill that will outlaw deceptive telephone calls, increase penalties for violators and limit expenditures.

The major issue yet to be resolved is how to attack independent expenditures. Both Republicans and Democrats want to limit "soft money" in campaigns, but they differ on how to do it and whether it would be constitutional.

Tampa Democrat

explains "no' vote

Sen. Jim Hargrett, D-Tampa, says he voted against the elections bill this week because he objects to changes in the way the Florida Elections Commission would be appointed.

The bill would let legislative leaders and the governor appoint the commission instead of leaving all appointments to the governor. Hargrett said he was concerned that the governor might veto the bill because of the procedure for appointments. Hargrett and Sen. Charlie Crist, R-St. Petersburg, cast the only votes against the bill. Crist objected to restricting independent expenditures, saying that would violate free speech rights.

_ Compiled from staff reports