Monday, Sep 11, 2006
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TALLAHASSEE

Ticket scalpers won't be outlaws

Gov. Bush signed bills legalizing scalping, restricting phone-rate hikes and protecting gun owners.

BY MARY ELLEN KLAS
meklas@MiamiHerald.com

Good news for people with tickets for hot games: Gov. Jeb Bush signed a bill into law Wednesday that removes penalties for ticket scalping.

Bad news for Miami Heat fans with tickets to the championship games they want to sell for big bucks: The bill doesn't take effect until July 1, long after the end of the NBA Finals.

Under the measure, Florida's 60-year-old ticket scalping law, which forbids selling tickets for more than $1 above the face value, will be eliminated and in its place will be an open-market system that will allows ticket owners and Internet brokers to sell tickets at whatever price the buyer agrees to pay.

The scalping bill was one of 39 bills signed into law Wednesday by the governor.

Among them: a bill that dealt a major blow to Florida's telephone companies. It repealed a law passed in 2003 that would have allowed them to receive rate increases of as much as 20 percent a year, every year beginning in 2007.

The AARP, which lobbied hard to get the phone rate provision changed, called it a major victory that could save Florida consumers as much as $276 million in the first year.

'This is welcome relief for Florida consumers who already have been socked with telephone rate increases of 30 percent to 90 percent, plus big jumps in fuel, housing, homeowners' insurance and tax bills,'' said Bentley Lipscomb, AARP Florida director.

Also signed were three bills that were consolation prizes for the powerful National Rifle Association.

The NRA had sought a bill to allow employees to keep their guns at work in their parked cars regardless of what the employer's policy was, but the measure died amid heavy opposition from the Chamber of Commerce and other business groups.

Instead, lawmakers passed NRA proposals to require all businesses which sell hunting and fishing licenses to also carry voter registration cards and another bill that clarifies language allowing gun owners to carry firearms in national forests.

CONCEALED IDENTITIES

The most controversial proposal of the NRA-backed bills will exempt from state public records the names of gun owners who carry concealed weapons. The bill takes effect July 1 and it makes it illegal for anyone but law enforcement to obtain the names of people who hold a concealed weapons permits unless they receive special permission from the court.

The bill also prohibits access to records of people who have applied for the concealed weapons permits but were denied. The NRA said the bill was needed to avoid harassment of gun owners. The opponents of the bill, led by the First Amendment Foundation, a nonprofit newspaper-backed advocacy group, said the measure was needed to allow the public to check whether government is following the law when it issues concealed weapons permits. Only gun owners without felony records and who have had proper training may obtain the permits.

Bush said the public's Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms trumped the First Amendment right to make the information public.

''I think the right to privacy in this case outweighs the public's right to know,'' he said. People are allowed ``the ability to self-protect -- it's a constitutional right. Trying to disclose who they are creates a safety problem, frankly.''

Bush said he envisioned handgun opponents printing up lists of people who carry concealed weapons. ``Should we know who the teachers are who have concealed weapons, even though they don't bring them to school?''

CONDO BILL VETOED

The governor vetoed one bill Wednesday, a proposal to make it easier for condominium unit owners to get rid of their property when damaged in a natural disaster.

That bill was sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Steve Geller, a Hallandale Beach Democrat, and in the House by Rep. Dudley Goodlette, a Naples Republican and was a long-term project of the Florida Bar's real estate law section. It would have allowed condominium owners to dissolve a condominium -- such as demolishing the property or selling it to a redeveloper -- if they got 80 percent of the unit owners to agree that it was necessary, rather than the 100 percent required now.

The governor said the bill ''went too far'' and violated private property rights of unit owners because it failed to provide those who disagreed with the majority vote with adequate safeguards.

Geller chided the governor Wednesday for joining the debate too late and said he will re-file it next year.

Said Geller: ``I told them, I'll be back next year and he won't.''