News from Tallahassee for 1/29/15

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Senate to Take Up Pensions, Greyhounds, Child Welfare posted on 1/15/15

by mary shedden | WUSF

As lawmakers return to Tallahassee next week for a second round of committee meetings, senators will revisit high-profile issues including an effort to bolster local pension plans.

The Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee next Wednesday will take up a bill (SB 172), filed by Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, and committee Chairman Jeremy Ring, D-Margate, that would revamp local pension plans.

A similar bill died last year when it got tangled in a controversial proposal by then-House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, to overhaul the Florida Retirement System, which includes state employees and other workers such as teachers.

Also next Wednesday, the Senate Regulated Industries Committee will consider a much-discussed proposal (SB 2) that would set reporting requirements for injuries to racing greyhounds.

Meanwhile, the Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee will get an update next Thursday about how the Department of Children and Families is carrying out a new law aimed at improving child welfare.

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EDITORIAL: N.J. casino, local business failures should be a warning for Florida posted on 1/8/15

by Carol B. Dover | Orlando Sentinel

The well-publicized closings of four casinos and corresponding loss of some 8,000 jobs in Atlantic City in 2014 — with the future of the nearly 3,000-employee Trump Taj Mahal also highly uncertain as we entered the New Year — has stirred renewed debate about the years-long fight to prevent Malaysian and Las Vegas gambling conglomerates from building megacasinos in Florida.

On one side are casino proponents who discount Atlantic City's plight as an aberration resulting from lax restraints on the number of casinos allowed there. They assure us the same would never happen in Florida. On the other side are casino opponents who point to the gambling industry's track record of oversaturation and insatiable appetite for building new casinos whenever and wherever they can. Just consider that 23 states now have commercial casinos within their borders, with their numbers increasing each year.

These broader arguments obscure another form of economic ravaging that began 37 years ago when Atlantic City became the first locale outside Las Vegas to open legalized casinos: the destruction of locally owned businesses.

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Rick Scott's top challenges for his second term posted on 1/5/15

by GARY FINEOUT | The Fine Print

FL Gov Rick Scott

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, considered one of the most vulnerable governors in the nation last year, will this week be sworn into a second term and take his place in state history as just the second GOP governor to earn re-election.

Scott's priorities—which are likely to be reflected in his inauguration day speech—won't be much of a surprise since he is expected to repeat what he's been saying for some time now.

Scott will stress jobs, the state's economic recovery, tax cuts, as well as other key parts of Scott's re-election platform such as keeping college tuition costs down.

But key questions remain, including whether or not Scott gets any kind of "honeymoon" after his narrow re-election. And additionally, how will Scott fare with the distractions, scandals and other problems that loom on the horizon?

Any of these could be a test for Scott and his campaign-hardened team led by Chief of Staff Melissa Sellers. After winning by roughly 64,000 votes how much political capital does Scott really have, and more importantly, how will he react if legislators, lobbyists and other in Tallahassee start worrying about the next set of campaigns instead of Scott?

it can be argued of course that as long as the state's economy continues to recover that Scott has met his primary challenge and the one that he ran on.

But there's plenty of challenges Scott will confront in the coming year that could cause him problems and harm his eventual legacy.

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Annual Look-Ahead: What to Expect in 2015 posted on 1/5/15

by BRANDON LARRABEE | News Service of Florida

With Gov. Rick Scott set to be sworn in for his second term and legislative committee meetings beginning next week, the topics that will dominate discussion in the Capitol in the coming year are already starting to shape up. Here are 10 stories that could generate major headlines -- or at least dominate the Tallahassee chatter -- in 2015.

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Gardiner says first Senate bill will be greyhound injury reporting posted on 12/18/14

by Mary Ellen Klas | Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau

Senate President Andy Gardiner said Wednesday he will revive the bill (SB 2) to require the greyhound racing industry to report animal injuries and have the measure sent to the House during the first week of the 2015 session.

“It’ll be named after Mrs. Gaetz,’’ he said, referring to Vicky Gaetz, the wife of former Senate President Don Gaetz who is an animal lover and worked to help persuade lawmakers to pass the bill last year.

The bill died in the final week of the 2014 legislative session after it became entangled in pari-mutuel industry politics.

Unlike other states, Florida’s greyhound industry does not have to report when dogs are injured as a result of racing or training. The bill, SB 2, was filed Tuesday by Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood. It imposes fines on track veterinarians who fail to report race-related injuries and follows a similar bill passed in 2013 that requires tracks to report greyhound deaths. In the first 9 months of 2013, 74 greyhound deaths were reported – more than one every three days.

“I sort of think the bill, whether it was timing or anything else, should have been resolved last year,’’ said Gardiner, R-Orlando, speaking to reporters in his Tallahassee office. The measure got caught in a late-session fight after the House and Senate abandoned attempts to update the state’s gambling laws. The Senate had pushed a plan to end the requirement that dog tracks race greyhounds in order to keep their gaming permits but it died amid fierce opposition from the powerful greyhound track owners.

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