Talk of special session on Seminole compact complicates homestretchby John Kennedy | April 25th, 2014
With the 2014 Legislature entering its final week, Gov. Rick Scott’s administration has been floating the idea of a special session next month to renew the gambling compact with the Seminole Tribe that is slated to end next year.
The renewed compact would likely include more money for the state — and could bolster the governor’s leadership credentials heading into his re-election campaign against likely Democratic rival Charlie Crist who as Republican governor from 2007-11, signed the current compact.
But a hurry-up session is complicated.
For those supporting expanded gambling, it presents little chance of putting into play sweeteners for the state’s financially struggling pari-mutuel sites, or making a case for Genting Group, the Malaysian gaming giant looking to open resort casinos in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.
Scott’s office, though, sought to quash the special session talk Friday night.
“There is no deal, and without a deal, there cannot be any decision on how to ratify a deal,” said Scott spokesman Frank Collins.
Still, House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, acknowledged that he had spoken with Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantero about compact negotiations, but that a special session wasn’t discussed.
“They were getting very close. He was kind of updating us on the progress. There were no specifics talked about,” Weatherford said.
The speaker said he responded, “When you have a deal, let us know what it is. We’d love to look at it and we’ll tell you what we think.”
Weatherford earlier talked of possibly considering a gambling expansion during the current legislative session. But it was hinged on a Seminole compact being crafted that allowed such expansion. He also envisioned next putting a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that could limit further gambling in Florida.
“I’ve always been a proponent of reducing the amount of gaming in Florida, not expanding it,” Weatherford said. “I don’t know if this compact reduces or expands it.”
House Democrats said Scott’s office hasn’t contacted them. And they vowed to block any compact that focuses solely on the tribe and not pari-mutuels, card rooms and casino resorts.
“The idea about the compact coming back is it should give the Legislature the opportunity to address those things,” said Rep. Jim Waldman, D-Coconut Creek.
Asked if Democratic votes were needed to seal a compact, House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston of Fort Lauderdale said, “Without a doubt.”