TALLAHASSEE -- The Florida Senate on Thursday, by a succession of mostly party-line votes, approved a trio of bills that supporters say will ensure citizens’ constitutionally-protected gun rights.
One measure restricts doctors from asking patients about gun ownership, and another prohibits local governments from passing stricter gun laws than the state. Those two already have been approved by the House and await Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s signature.
The third, which began life as a proposed “open carry” law, was modified to decriminalize the accidental showing of a concealed weapon. It goes to the House, which is expected to also approve it.
The guns and doctors bill has drawn the most national attention, with the American Academy of Pediatrics saying it will interfere with patient care.
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House votes to expand voucher program
TALLAHASSEE -- The state House has voted to expand Florida’s school voucher program for students with disabilities.
The bill (HB 1329) that passed 98-17 on Thursday would add children with lesser disabilities such as asthma and allergies.
The McKay Scholarship Program provides public funds to 21,000 students with physical and learning disabilities so they can attend private schools.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Michael Bileca, a Miami Republican, said up to 51,000 more students could qualify, but he estimated only about 2,800 would accept vouchers.
The bill goes to the Senate where similar legislation (SB 1656) is awaiting a floor vote.
Senate passes another class size revision
TALLAHASSEE -- A revised plan to loosen Florida’s class size limits has passed the state Senate with little of the opposition that’s accompanied past proposals.
The Senate voted 38-1 for the bill (SB 1466) and sent it to the House.
It would reduce the number of core courses covered by class size requirements from 849 to 304.
The Florida Education Association has led the opposition to past efforts by the Republican-controlled Legislature to weaken the limits set by the Florida Constitution.
Mark Pudlow, a spokesman for the statewide teachers union, said the new bill is better than past proposals but the FEA still objects to removing foreign language classes from the limits.
Pudlow said the union hasn’t yet decided whether it would challenge the bill if it becomes law.
Senate President: Mistake made on drug database
TALLAHASSEE -- Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos says a mistake was made when an amendment providing $1.75 million in funding for a state prescription-drug monitoring database was slipped into a law to combat “pill mills.”
The amendment was offered by state Sen. Mike Fasano on Thursday. But the move likely would have insured a veto by Gov. Rick Scott. He’s opposed the database and does not want to use state money to pay for it.
Haridopolos says he will fix the mistake by taking the funding amendment out of the bill today.
A group of Florida law enforcement agencies already agreed to contribute part of their forfeiture money to help pay for the database. The state is considered the epicenter of prescription drug abuse.
Senate urges balanced federal budget
TALLAHASSEE -- The Florida Senate again has called for a federal constitutional convention to put a balanced budget amendment in the U.S. Constitution.
The Legislature adopted a similar resolution last year, but the Senate passed a new version (SCR 4) on Thursday. It now goes to the House.
A problem with Florida’s 2010 resolution is that it didn’t match language other states are using.
It passed the Republican-controlled Senate on a largely party line 31-7 vote.
-- Associated Press