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Rep. Katie Edwards

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Pot-legalization sponsor pessimistic

A bill (HB 1139) that would legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes said Monday that it has almost no chance of passing, but said backers will likely push a constitutional amendment that would put the question up to voters.

Rep. Katie Edwards put the measure’s chances of getting through the Legislature at “slim to none.” She said she didn’t support the idea at one time, but then she met patients with debilitating pain.

“If you had asked me about six months ago when we were campaigning, if I would have filed this bill, I would have said, ‘Absolutely not,’” said Edwards, D-Plantation. “Then I got sick myself and in the hospital (began) talking with ... cancer patients and people who themselves were very sick.”

Eighteen states and the District of Columbia allow medical marijuana use for certain people.

No-tax equipment plan advances

Gov. Rick Scott’s proposal for $2,500 teacher pay raises may not be going exactly as he’d hoped, but his other key issue for the session, the elimination of to eliminate sales taxes on manufacturing machinery and equipment is advancing.

The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee on Monday unanimously approved the measure (SB 518), sponsored by Sen. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange.

“The elimination of the sales tax that manufacturers pay on equipment will make our state more competitive and will help our manufacturing sector grow jobs,” Scott said.

The Senate bill still has to clear the Finance and Tax Subcommittee and Appropriations Committee before reaching the Senate floor. The House companion (HB 4013) awaits a hearing.

Arcade lobby defends cafes

The association for senior arcades is trying to head off the legislative rush to outlaw the games used by Internet cafes and other adult parlors.

Florida Arcade Association President Gale Fontaine wrote Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, and House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, asking them to reconsider language in the Internet cafe prohibition legislation that has been approved by the House (HB 155) and is expected to go before the full Senate (SB 1030) later this week.

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Fontaine said the games found at senior arcades are no different than what are available at places like Chuck E. Cheese and Dave & Buster’s, which lawmakers say are excluded from the pending ban. “

The Senate Rules Committee is to take up the measure Tuesday, and it could go before the full Senate on Thursday.

KidCare expansion advances

A bill that would close gaps in access to health insurance for Florida children passed its first Senate committee by unanimous vote Monday. The measure (SB 548) by Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, would bridge the gap between when a child loses other coverage — such as when a parent loses a job — and when the child is enrolled in Florida KidCare, the subsidized federal-state children’s health insurance program.

The bill would allow children to keep receiving medical treatment until a final eligibility decision is made, usually within 45-60 days. If a family already qualifies for food stamps, the Women Infants and Children (WIC) program, Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) or similar programs, the children also would be presumed eligible for KidCare.

HOUSE ADVANCES DEP-EPA DEAL

The House Rulemaking Oversight and Repeal Subcommittee on Monday started the process for the Legislature to accept a deal with the federal government that gives Florida more say over the state’s river, lake and estuary standards. The measure (HB 7115) is intended to have the state Department of Environmental Protection set new standards by the end of the 2014. The DEP reached a deal March 15 with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that expanded the state’s authority to set nitrogen and phosphorus levels in most of the state’s coastal streams, estuaries and rivers, including the Intracoastal Waterway. “In Florida we know our water is different than in other parts of the country and the EPA has recognized that,” said Rep. Jake Rayburn, R-Lithia, the sponsor of the bill. The proposal – to next appear before the Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee before reaching the House floor – is opposed by the Sierra Club Florida, which contends the deal will result in a lowered level of quality for Florida’s waters. The Senate version (SB 1808) has one committee appearance planned, Community Affairs, but no hearing date has been set.

—The News Service of Florida

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