Legislature briefs: Lawmakers agree to $50 million for trail

April 21, 2013 

Legislators agree to $50 million for trail

TALLAHASSEE -- Florida lawmakers are setting aside $50 million to pay for a multi-use trail that would stretch across the state.

State legislators working over the weekend agreed to spend money on the trail, along with plenty of other hometown projects.

The 275-mile trail would run from St. Petersburg to Titusville. The money would be used to purchase land to connect existing trails already in place.

Gov. Rick Scott could veto the project since he did not recommend it his proposed budget.

House and Senate negotiators are spending the weekend trying to resolve final differences in a proposed $74 billion budget. Lawmakers are scheduled to end their session May 3.

They have still not resolved major issues such as teacher pay raises and whether to hike college tuition.

New law adds prescribing powers to optometrists

Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a long-debated bill that expands the drug-prescribing powers of optometrists.

Scott signed the bill (HB 239) Friday. The state now allows optometrists to prescribe oral medications -- including pills -- to treat eye diseases.

They had been limited to prescribing medications such as eye drops. Optometrists had to refer patients to ophthalmologists for conditions requiring drugs taken by mouth.

Optometrists are not medical doctors and generally do not have the same authority to write prescriptions like ophthalmologists who are medical or osteopathic physicians.

The Florida Optometric Association reported that 47 other states allow optometrists to prescribe oral medication to treat eye diseases.

Gambling studycomes under fire

An anti-gambling group is criticizing the company chosen do a critical study on the future expansion of gambling in Florida.

The Florida Legislature late last week signed a nearly $400,000 contract to have New Jersey-based Spectrum Gaming Group conduct a comprehensive study of gambling.

The company will be responsible with creating two detailed reports that closely examines the state's mix of gambling and the impact of changing state law.

No Casinos Inc. questioned whether Spectrum would come up with an objective analysis given the company has done work for casino operators. No Casinos President John Sowinski complained the review could be a "propaganda tool."

A spokeswoman for Senate President Don Gaetz defended the choice and said Spectrum is responsible for fact-finding not making recommendations on gambling policy.

-- Associated Press

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