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Commission on disabled job training near end

Today is the final day of the 60-day session.

A bill to abolish the Occupational Access and Opportunity Commission is headed to Gov. Jeb Bush for his signature.

The bill, a result of a series of audits and investigations criticizing the commission that oversees job training for the disabled, reassigns that role to the Department of Education.

The commission was created in 1999 to privatize the state's vocational rehabilitation, but quickly caught the eye of state auditors and investigators, who found rampant insider dealings and conflicts of interest.

Current and former board members have steered business to favored customers, and a recent audit urged legislators to abolish the commission. One of those contracts went to former state Sen. George Kirkpatrick, who helped craft the legislation that created it. He resigned from the commission last month.


Bill bars promotion of reading failures

Third-graders who can't read couldn't advance to the fourth grade under a bill the Senate unanimously passed and sent to the House.

Current law requires school districts to retain fourth-graders who can't read at grade level unless there's a good reason to promote them. But lawmakers are unhappy with reports about how school districts have implemented the 1999 law.

More than 58,000 students scored at the lowest level of the reading portion of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test last year, according to the Education Department. But fewer than 5,200 were retained.

The bill would allow exemptions if students are not fluent in English, have disabilities or can demonstrate an acceptable level of reading through an assessment other than FCAT.

Under the measure, districts that don't comply with the law could lose their lottery dollars.

A similar House bill (CS-HB 1259) is awaiting a vote.


House rejects FCAT help for disabled students

A proposal that would give disabled children a helping hand, such as more time, when they take the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test failed in the House.

"Please do not discriminate against disabled students," said Rep. Loranne Ausley, D-Tallahassee, who offered the FCAT amendment to a wide-ranging education bill (CS SB 1564).

She said special arrangements tailored to disabled students already are made for college entrance tests and the General Educational Development test that dropouts can take to get the equivalent of a high school diploma.

But the amendment was tabled without debate, 67-48.

A final vote on the overall bill was pending. A key feature would limit school board members' salaries to no more than that for beginning teachers.


Tipsy driver detector approved by Senate

Drivers with two DUI convictions would have to pass a breath test hooked up to their car's ignition under a bill the Senate passed and sent to the House.

The interlock device required under the bill (CS HB 1057) would prevent the car from starting if a sampling of the driver's breath indicates a blood alcohol concentration of more than 0.02 percent. It is also designed so no one else can breathe into the device to circumvent a true reading.

The bill also makes it a misdemeanor to refuse a Breathalyzer test. And a third DUI conviction would become an automatic felony, permanently stripping offenders of their right to drive a car or boat in Florida. That doesn't happen now until the fourth conviction.

Gov. Jeb Bush supports the legislation.


HIS TWO CENTS' WORTH: State Sen. Daryl Jones, D-Miami, who is also a gubernatorial candidate, holds two pennies to make a point during a news conference Thursday. Jones said Gov. Jeb Bush's education spending record works out to an increase in per student spending of less than 2 cents a day.