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Welfare drug test plan relaxed

A plan to give drug tests to all welfare recipients has been watered down considerably. A bill approved by a House committee Monday would allow random testing of welfare applicants only.

The sponsor, state Rep. Joseph Arnall, R-Jacksonville Beach, said his original plan to test all welfare recipients would have cost too much _ about $50-million. Randomly testing welfare applicants will show employers that welfare recipients are drug-free as they try to find jobs under new welfare rules, Arnall said.

Critics say the plan raises constitutional issues about unreasonable searches. A similar bill is pending in the Senate.


State lawyers brace for computer glitch

A team of lawyers will try to protect the state's legal interests as it attempts to fix computers afflicted with a calendar glitch, Attorney General Bob Butterworth said Monday.

The year 2000 problem affects most computers around the world because they were programed to recognize only the last two digits of a year. Those programs will be baffled when 2000 arrives and the confusion could affect everything from the release dates of prison inmates to the processing of benefit checks.

Estimates on the cost of fixing the state's computers range up to $200-million.

The task force of state lawyers will review past computing contracts to determine if legal claims can be mounted against vendors or consultants. It will also determine whether the problem can be fixed under existing contracts at no further public cost.


More charter schools set for next fall

Private groups will open 18 more charter schools next fall in seven counties including Hillsborough and Pinellas, Education Commissioner Frank Brogan said Monday.

Lawmakers last spring passed a law to let private groups run public schools under contracts or "charters" with school districts and six schools opened their doors last fall.