Florida Drownings

Northwest Florida officials and hotel owners are clashing over a proposal that would use tourist development taxes to hire more lifeguards.

The proposal is an attempt to cut back the number of drownings across the Florida Panhandle.

Escambia County commissioners have asked legislators to pursue the possibility of using the so-called "bed tax" for beach safety.

More than 40 people have drowned on Panhandle beaches over the past three years. Virtually all of the deaths were at unguarded beaches.

Right now, state law limits use of the bed tax revenue to promoting tourism, financing beach restoration and paying for convention bureaus and tourist-information centers.