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In what observers said could be a test case for federal health-care reform, the Florida legislature has approved a plan to overhaul the state's beleaguered health-care system.

Gov. Lawton Chiles, who introduced the legislation, was able to keep it intact despite hundreds of amendments offered in the House and Senate.

The debate foreshadowed potential problems, however, that President Clinton may face in Congress when his Administration's health-care plan is introduced next month.

The system approved by the Florida legislature this month will be the first in the nation to combine government controls and market incentives. It establishes regional purchasing cooperatives of hospitals and doctors, which will compete for the participation of individuals and businesses.

Under the new plan, state workers and Medicaid recipients will be enrolled automatically in the cooperatives, but participation by private employers will be voluntary. The cooperatives should be operational by year's end, according to the Governor's spokesman.

"The key to making health care affordable is to first make it accessible,'' Governor Chiles said the day the reforms were approved. "This plan helps every resident open the door to a healthy home.''

The education committee of the California Assembly has rejected a bill to prevent state funds from being used to educate illegal immigrants.

After three hours of emotional debate, the panel voted 10 to 4 against the bill late last month.

Sponsored by Assemblyman Richard Mountjoy, a Republican, the bill would prohibit state funds from being used to educate undocumented aliens in public schools, colleges, and universities.

Mr. Mountjoy argues that the measure is needed to insure adequate funding for legal residents at a time of severe budget problems.

But education and civil-rights groups have denounced the bill as an attempt to deprive immigrants of their constitutionally guaranteed rights. If it is passed into law, they warn, school officials will be forced to act as agents of federal immigration authorities.

The education committee agreed to take the bill up for a vote again this week after Mr. Mountjoy complained that several key committee members were absent when the first vote was held.

The Speaker of the Vermont House has put off action until next year on his controversial property-tax-reform bill in order to garner more public support for the measure.

The proposal by Speaker Ralph G. Wright calls for lowering local property taxes and establishing a statewide tax to finance a single contract for all public school teachers. The bill would give the state authority over collective bargaining, while guaranteeing teachers' right to strike.

Since its introduction in February, the bill has been attacked by the Vermont-N.E.A. and criticized at a number of public hearings. (See Education Week, Feb. 17, 1993.)

Vol. 12, Issue 29

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