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Tobin says he won't seek re-election

Another longtime Broward lawmaker announced Monday he will not seek re-election.

Rep. Jack Tobin, D-Margate, told his colleagues he is retiring after 16 years in what appears to be a strategic move to gain an advantage as a lobbyist. He could have served one more two-year term before term limits would have forced him out, along with many of his contemporaries.

By not running for re-election this year, Tobin will have observed the two-year ban on lobbying and be prepared to go into business after the 2000 election. Those who serve another term will have to wait until 2002.

Outside his district, Tobin might be best known for his participation in a lobster dinner in 1995 that was paid for by telephone lobbyists. The dinner took place on the eve of a vote on a telecommunications bill that was written by a committee headed by Tobin, who contended socializing with lobbyists did not affect legislative decisions.

Another veteran Broward Democrat and longtime friend of Tobin, Rep. Fred Lippman of Hollywood, also is retiring.


Pupils' fitness requirement may double

High school students would be required to take twice as much physical education as they do now in order to graduate under a bill passed unanimously by the House Monday.

The bill would require high school students who graduate in 2000 to have one full credit of physical education, instead of the current one-half credit. The number of required elective credits would be reduced from nine to 8{ credits. Two full seasons on a sports team would satisfy the physical education requirement as long as the student passed a personal fitness test.

The Senate has yet to act on the proposal.


Sitting in a sea of green

Few state representatives have criticized state spending more than Rep. Rob Wallace, R-Tampa, so it was a little odd to see his desk in the House chamber Monday. Someone had covered it with fake money, and left an anonymous note telling Wallace, "You are top dog."

"It's obviously nobody I know, because nobody I know has $100 bills," said Wallace, sounding less than amused.

Nonetheless, he left the bills covering his seat and desk throughout most of Monday's session. House leaders assuming Wallace was trying to make a statement said nothing for most of the day, but Majority Leader Jim King finally walked over and suggested television footage of a legislator sitting in a pile of money looked, well, not great.

Someone watching from the gallery apparently agreed. King said Wallace received another anonymous note telling him he looked ridiculous and was "an embarrassment to his constituents." The bills quickly disappeared after that.


Parent council limits might be eased

Parents who are employed by the school system would find it easier to participate on the school advisory council at their child's school under a bill approved by the House Monday.

After a 1996 study revealed that most school advisory councils were dominated by employees of the school or school district, the Legislature voted in 1997 to limit the number of school district employees on the councils. The new law says a majority of the members of each school council must not be school district employees. But that meant some Pinellas parents employed by the school district felt they were unfairly prevented from serving on councils at their children's schools, said Rep. Margo Fischer, D-St. Petersburg.

Fischer's bill, approved by the House 63-48, would enable district employees who do not work at the school to be elected to the council without counting toward the limit on district employees. The bill now goes to the Senate.


Bill protecting reporters goes to Chiles

Journalists would have limited protection from being forced to reveal their sources, under a bill approved by the House and sent to Gov. Lawton Chiles on Monday.

The legislation gives journalists a "qualified privilege" to refuse to disclose information, including the names of sources, while "actively gathering news." The privilege does not apply if the journalist has witnessed a crime.

The House approved the legislation 105-7.


Senate gives tentative nod to "Reagan'

Abraham Lincoln is out. So is Florida's 33rd governor, LeRoy Collins.

The state Senate gave tentative approval Monday to a bill that names Florida's Turnpike after former president Ronald Reagan. A similar bill is pending in the state House.

Democrats tried in vain to change the name. "Ronald Reagan is not dead yet," said Sen. Skip Campbell, D-Tamarac, who pushed unsuccessfully to name the turnpike after Lincoln. Sen. Howard Forman, D-Pembroke Pines, proposed Collins, regarded as one of Florida's greatest governors.

"LeRoy Collins was like the Thomas Jefferson of our state," Forman said. But the Senate rejected Collins, sticking with Reagan.