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Phone bill passes House

A bill aimed at promoting competition for local phone service overwhelmingly passed the state House Tuesday, with little of the controversy that once marked the bill.

An earlier version of the bill would have doubled local phone rates.

The bill now awaiting a vote by the full Senate requires the Public Service Commission to study the costs of providing local phone service and report back to the Legislature by February 1999.

Assisted-living bill okayed

Assisted-living facility owners are about to find it more difficult to house tenants in poor conditions.

A bill unanimously approved by the House Tuesday and now awaiting the governor's signature greatly increases the authority of the Agency for Health Care Administration to crack down on problem assisted-living facility operators. It would allow stiffer fines and require more detailed background checks and fuller disclosure from people seeking licenses. The bill was sponsored in the House by state Rep. Margo Fischer, D-St. Petersburg.

House likes turnpike name

Amid cheers, the state House overwhelmingly voted Tuesday to rename the Florida Turnpike the Ronald Reagan Turnpike.

Only Rep. Barry Silver, D-Boca Raton, dared question the bill.

"He gave tax breaks to the wealthy and left this country with the highest debt it has ever known," said Silver, suggesting the turnpike instead be named after environmentalist Marjorie Stoneman Douglas.

His comments were met with jeers, and House members promptly passed the bill 94-18.

The full Senate approved a similar name change bill Tuesday, but both chambers will have to iron out slight differences in the bills before Friday.

Pesticide bill passes

The state House on Tuesday approved legislation to tighten restrictions on aerial pesticide spraying, sending the measure on to the governor. The bill comes in response to residents' complaints over last summer's war on the Mediterranean fruit fly in the Tampa Bay area.

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