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Technology vital to man's life

Today is the 10th day of the 60-day session.

Michael Phillips can move his thumbs _ and only his thumbs.

But give him a specialized computer and equipment, and the 20-year-old Tampa man creates art.

Lying flat on a portable bed, Phillips showed some of his works to lawmakers Wednesday while demonstrating the importance of "assistive technology" that enables the disabled.

"It's lovely to show others that I am a creative and intelligent individual," he told the Senate Children and Families Committee.

Phillips, who has a progressive disorder called spinal muscular atrophy, explained how his computer and equipment works.

"I have a string around my thumb . . . and when I pull, my thumb activates a switch," he said. That switch is how Phillips sends computer commands.

"As long as you're able to breathe there's some sort of technology out there," he said.

Gov. Jeb Bush, who has made services to developmentally disabled a priority, was at the committee to show his support for technology to help people with disabilities. He wants the state to spend $1.5-million for it.


PSC appointee's views questioned

Florida Public Service Commissioner Michael A. Palecki has run into trouble in confirmation hearings in the Senate.

The Regulated Industries Committee postponed voting on Palecki's appointment Wednesday, at the request of Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon. Lee questioned whether Palecki, who represented a natural gas utility before his appointment to the PSC, would be able to represent consumer interests.

Lee also suggested that views Palecki expressed to him privately differed from his views on utility regulation expressed to the Senate committee Wednesday. Senators need more time to determine Palecki's "true views," Lee said.

Gov. Jeb Bush appointed Palecki to the PSC last November, to serve a term ending in January 2003. Palecki worked for the PSC between 1990 and 1995. He then became vice president of regulatory affairs for NUI Corp., a multistate gas distribution, sales and services company.


Bill outlaws stalking on Internet

A House committee is continuing its attack on cyber-crimes, this time cyber-stalking. The House Information Technology committee approved a bill expanding Florida's anti-stalking laws to include using the Internet to harass or threaten someone.

Although they don't keep records of cyber-stalking because it's not a crime, state law enforcement investigators say they receive at least 10 complaints a month about it.

Last week, the committee approved expanding a ban on Internet child pornography, over the objections of free-speech advocates who said the bill was unconstitutional.

"The courts will let us know where we are," said Rep. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach.