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News from Tallahassee for 3/9/14
5 biggest questions of the 2014 session posted on 3/6/14
by GARY FINEOUT | The Fine Print
The annual 2014 legislative session kicked off on Tuesday amid the usual ceremony, speeches and even a brief round of protests.
But it appears so far that this year's 60-day march will be relatively low-key, and perhaps, much less contentious than the last three years since Gov. Rick Scott took office. (Example: The 2011 session may remain one of the most substantive sessions in the last decade.)
Still there may be a few flashpoints between now and early May when legislators wrap up their work and hit the campaign trail.
Here are the 5 biggest questions that should be answered between now and then:
Fla. House gambling bill would not allow casinos posted on 3/4/14
by GARY FINEOUT | AP
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A bid to bring major casinos to South Florida was dealt a significant setback under a sweeping gambling proposal rolled out late Monday by the Republican-controlled Florida House.
The House bill, sponsored by the GOP chairman who is overseeing gambling legislation, would create a statewide commission to oversee the multi-billion dollar industry.
But it does not authorize the creation of two Las Vegas-styled casinos. A Senate proposal released last week would allow resort casinos in both Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
Instead the House would leave it up to voters to decide if casinos could ever come to the Sunshine State.
That's because the House is also proposing a constitutional amendment that would require voter approval to for any future expansions of gambling. An amendment requires a yes vote by 60 percent of voters in order to pass.
Rep. Robert Schenck, R-Spring Hill, and sponsor of the bill called the House plan a "responsible proposal." He added that would it also "clean up significant and glaring loopholes in current law." Schenck said that any gambling bill considered during the session must be accompanied by the constitutional amendment.
Ten Issues to Watch During the 2014 Session posted on 3/3/14
by staff | news service of florida
Florida lawmakers will start the 2014 session Tuesday with a budget surplus and an eye on the November elections. But they still will have to address some tough questions before the session ends May 2. Among the questions: How can Florida better protect vulnerable children? Is it time to overhaul the state pension system? And should the state allow resort casinos to set up shop? Here are 10 issues to watch during the next two months:
BRIGHTER BUDGET: Tallahassee is always a happier place when the state has a budget surplus. And lawmakers will go into the session with a roughly $1 billion cushion. Gov. Rick Scott proposed a $74.2 billion budget plan that includes tax cuts and increased spending on education and child welfare. Lawmakers don’t have to follow Scott's recommendations, but cutting taxes and spending money on kids could be popular ideas in an election year....
HEALTH CARE FIGHTS: The 2013 legislative session was filled with debate about whether Florida should expand Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act. While Democrats will try to resurrect the issue this year, a Medicaid expansion is all but dead. But the health-care world could see a couple of major lobbying fights, including a hospital-industry battle about state approvals of new trauma centers. Also, a debate has been raging about a House proposal to allow nurse practitioners to provide care without the supervision of physicians.
by Matt Dixon | Florida Times-Union
TALLAHASSEE | As lawmakers head into the start of the 2014 legislative session Tuesday, they will have $1 billion more to work with than in the current year budget, and a host of contentious issues to deal with, against the backdrop of a 2014 campaign cycle already underway.
It sets up a delicate balancing act for lawmakers. The Republican-dominated Senate and House of Representatives must consider policy changes while keeping an eye toward the politics of an election landscape that includes the re-election campaign of fellow Re*****an Gov. Rick Scott.
Scott has made it clear that his priority is cutting $500 million in taxes and fees. He wants 80 percent of that to come from rolling back 2009 increases on vehicle-registration fees. The remaining $100 million would come from reducing taxes on commercial leases.
The governor’s office is notorious for talking about its top legislative priority almost exclusively, so his tax-cut plan will be a prominent portion of the 60-day session.
The legislative leadership has expressed a willingness to go along with the tax-cut plan, but likely will not sign off on Scott’s version without some haggling. Often, members of the same party offer differing proposals to gain leverage when negotiating other priorities.
With an estimated $1.2 billion in additional revenue available for the next budget, Democrats have hammered Scott’s tax plan. They want the revenue invested in things like health care and education.
Fla. Senate proposes new casinos, slot machines posted on 2/25/14
by GARY FINEOUT | AP
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The Republican-controlled Florida Senate on Monday rolled out a sweeping gambling proposal (SPB 7050) that would bring casinos to South Florida as well as expand the use of slot machines across the state.
A major component of the legislation would call for the creation of two $2 billion resort casinos, one each in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, if local voters give the green light in a referendum. It would allow dog tracks and horse tracks outside of South Florida to add slot machines to their locations.
Florida already has some casinos, such as one operated by the Seminole tribe in Tampa, but it has not yet authorized full-blown casinos similar to those in Las Vegas.
It's not clear, however, whether the ambitious plans have enough votes in the Florida Legislature to pass. Some in Florida's business community, including political heavyweights such as Disney, remain steadfastly opposed to any gambling expansion. The Florida House two years ago scuttled a bill to allow the creation of resort casinos.
All sides caught up in the fight over gambling, however, have poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into campaign accounts, meaning there could be a protracted tug of war on the issue during the annual legislative session that starts next week.
Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples and chairman of the Senate Gaming Committee, in a memo sent Monday to all senators cautioned that it could take weeks to discuss the legislation and answer questions before even the first vote is taken. The session ends in early May.
House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, continued to sound skeptical about the prospects of a gambling bill. He said his chamber will "approach gaming in a comprehensive manner."
Weatherford said he wants Gov. Rick Scott to renegotiate the state's existing compact with the Seminole Tribe for Florida before proceeding any further. The tribe inked a deal with former Gov. Charlie Crist that allowed slot machines and card games such as blackjack at several tribe casinos. The main portion of that compact, however, expires in 2015.
Weatherford also said he wants the issue brought before Florida's voters.
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