The day in Tallahassee, Thursday, March 20, 2008

March 21st, 2008

The Florida Times-Union--Mar. 20, 2008
The Associated Press

Children would have to sit in special seats in cars for four more years under a bill approved by a House committee.

Current law requires special baby carriers or child seats only for children who are 3 years old or younger. Under the proposed bill, children between the ages of 4 and 7 would be required to sit in booster seats.

Too many children are using adult seat belts, which don't fit kids properly and can become dangerous, said the bill's sponsor, Rep. Dan Gelber, R-Miami Beach. The shoulder belt sits too high around a child's neck, and the lap belt pulls across the stomach instead of resting across the child's lap, he said.

"Using booster seats reduces the likelihood of serious injuries by about 59 percent compared to children who are only in adult seat belts," said Becker Holland, a member of the Junior League of Florida.

The bill (HB 619) was approved unanimously by the House Committee on Infrastructure and has one more stop before reaching the floor.

At the same meeting, the committee approved a bill (HB 1299) that would require all minors to pass a driver education course before receiving a driver's license.

Similar legislation has been filed in the Senate for both bills.


One of Florida's largest rail road companies would not be responsible for any passengers injured on a proposed commuter rail line under an amendment approved by a House committee.

The amendment would free CSX Transportation Inc. from paying damages in accidents where passengers were injured on the line, even if the company was responsible for the injuries. The state would instead accept the liability. The company would, however, have to cover any damage to its own trains and injuries to its employees.

The state and CSX are working on a $491 million deal to have 61 miles of track in the Orlando area go from carrying freight to carrying people. The Florida Department of Transportation would buy the track from CSX, but the company would lease the right to continue moving freight on the line for $10 million a year.

CSX should be exempted from liability, because the state is adding passengers to the line who would otherwise not be there, said Rep. Richard Glorioso, R-Plant City, who offered the amendment to a larger transportation bill. CSX would not agree to sell the track to the state without the protection, and building new lines or additional roads would cost the state more than the additional insurance, he said. The state would pay $2 million a year for a $200 million policy to cover injuries to passengers.

The bill (HB 1399) passed by the House Committee on Infrastructure has one more stop before reaching the House floor. The CSX deal hasn't made it through its first committee in the Senate.


A proposal to close what Democrats called a loophole that large retail chains and other multistate companies can use to partly avoid paying Florida's corporate income tax was dismissed by Republicans as a tax increase before a House panel killed it.

Not even a provision to use most of the estimated $364 million in new revenue to cut property taxes was enough to persuade the GOP majority to accept the bill.

Republican lawmakers said they were afraid it would discourage companies from coming to or expanding in Florida and harm consumers who benefit from low prices at national chains.

The bill was sponsored by House Democratic Leader Dan Gelber of Miami Beach who argued the state's present scheme puts Florida-only corporations at a disadvantage by allowing multistate companies to cut their taxes in a way they can't.

Currently, multistate companies can avoid paying income tax by essentially sending money to subsidiary companies in other states where they aren't taxed or are taxed less.

Gelber's bill (HB 1237) would have required companies to combine the incomes of all subsidiary corporations in calculating how much should be attributed to the business they do in Florida. The federal government and 21 other states take that approach, Gelber said.

It failed 10-6 on a straight party-line vote in the Government Efficiency and Accountability Council.

State business groups including the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Associated Industries of Florida and Florida Retail Federation opposed the bill.

Supporters included labor unions and the Florida League of Women Voters. No similar legislation has been filed in the Senate.