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Scott says he’ll veto speed limit increase: “I don’t want anybody to be injured”

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014 by John Kennedy

Not so fast, Florida. Gov. Rick Scott said Tuesday that he’s going to veto a proposal that could increase speed limits in places to 75 mph.

“There’s times I’d like to go faster,” Scott acknowledged.

But he said he’s heard plenty of opposition from law enforcement officials, including Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Tod Cloud. The governor was urged against the legislation (SB 392) by Cloud at last week’s funeral for Trooper Chelsea Richard, killed a week earlier on Interstate 75 near Ocala while investigating an accident.

“I’m going to stand with law enforcement. I want everybody to stay safe. I don’t want anybody to be injured, so I’m going to veto that bill,” Scott said.

Scott said, “By doing this, I think we’re doing the right thing for our troopers, for law enforcement.”

 

 

On speed limit bill, all roads lead to Gov. Rick Scott

Saturday, May 10th, 2014 by John Kennedy

One of the most contested battles of the legislative session continues to divide lawmakers, with a proposal to increase state speed limits now fueling more wrangling focused on Gov. Rick Scott.

The clash over “how fast is safe” has crossed the median strip of Florida politics. Democratic and Republican legislators are scattered on both sides of the issue that Scott is expected to settle in coming weeks, either by allowing the legislation (CS/SB 392) to become law or vetoing it.

So far, he’s given no hints. But both sides are working him hard.

Two of the leading players are a pair of Palm Beach County Democrats whose districts are separated by less than 20 miles — but whose views are light years apart on the subject.

Rep. Irv Slosberg

“If you want road safety, this is a no-brainer. He’s got to veto it,” said Rep. Irv Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, who has pushed for stricter seat-belt and texting-while-driving laws during his 10 years in the House.

But Sen. Jeff Clemens, a sponsor of the measure, says it would not heighten risks on Florida roadways.

“When you take a step back from the emotions of this issue, you realize that we’re talking about a difference of 5   mph — maybe,” said Clemens, D-Lake Worth. “That’s entirely reasonable.”

Sen. Jeff Clemens

Full story here:  bit.ly/1nseBBL

Does GOP help Scott’s re-elect by adding new pages to playbook? (w/vid of session’s last night)

Sunday, May 4th, 2014 by John Kennedy

After years of budget-cutting and strict social policies, Florida’s ruling Republicans worked to soften some edges during the just-completed legislative session with steps that appear designed to bolster Gov. Rick Scott for a bruising re-election battle.

The $77.1 billion state budget approved by lawmakers late Friday is the largest in state history, filled with increased dollars for schools and environmental programs, and chocked with hometown spending on social services, museums, theaters and local government projects.

Full story here: bit.ly/1g0vImH

Parasailing regulations headed to Gov. Rick Scott

Thursday, May 1st, 2014 by John Kennedy

Commercial parasailing operations, involved in several tragedies along Florida waterways in recent years, would gain state regulation for the first time under legislation headed to Gov. Rick Scott.

Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, sponsored the measure (SB 320) approved 38-0 Thursday in the Senate. It also includes new restrictions on kite-boarding near airport runways, but the focus in on parasailing.

“I don’t care what else is on it, as long as we get this through,” said Sachs, who has struggled for several years to tighten oversight of parasail operations.

There have been 21 parasailing accidents in Florida from 2001 through last October, resulting in 23 injuries and six fatalities, according to state records.

In 10 of the accidents, high winds or gusts were found to be a contributing factor. In six of those 10 accidents, there was also equipment failure. The other 11 accidents reportedly were caused by a variety of factors, including operator error and equipment malfunctions.

 

Richardson to look on today as Senate approves payment for years behind bars

Thursday, May 1st, 2014 by John Kennedy

James Richardson, 78, expected to look on today as Senate approves bill compensating him for years in prison.

An elderly man once convicted of one of the most heinous crimes in Florida history, spoke softly Wednesday, sitting in a law firm’s office two blocks from the state Capitol.

“We’ve tried to survive, the best we know how,” said James Richardson, 78, who lawmakers today are expected to be made eligible for $1.2 million in state compensation after he was wrongfully imprisoned for more than two decades, including four years on Death Row.

“No, I don’t have any animosity,” he added. “I can say that deeply from my heart. But I just was hurt.”

The Post spoke with Richardson who come to Tallahassee where the state Senate today is expected to approve a bill making him eligible for a $1.2 million payment for his years behind bars. The interview is here:  http://bit.ly/1rS3Zvy

(more…)

Speed limit bill squeaks through House, but opponents urge Scott to hit brakes

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014 by John Kennedy

Amid emotional debate, the Florida House approved a measure that could lead to higher speed limits on some stretches of state interstates and smaller roads.

The House voted 58-56 on the legislation (CS/SB 392) which authorizes the Florida Department of Transportation to add 5 mph to some limits on rural and lightly traveled roadways. The bill, whose sponsors include Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, now goes to Gov. Rick Scott for review.

“We are simply saying (to FDOT) you can increase the limit after you do your engineering studies,” said Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres.

But Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, a funeral director who also acknowledged that he has frequently been ticketed for speeding, argued against the move.

“I can’t do something in good conscience that is going to cost lives,” Baxley said.

The legislation would let FDOT study which stretches of highway could be boosted by 5 mph from the current 70 mph limit set in 1996.

Clemens has said he doesn’t envision speed limits rising on I-95 in South Florida. But rural and more isolated stretches of Florida’s interstates could qualify, he said.

The legislation also is aimed at allowing limits on some divided highways rise from 65 mph to 70 mph and other state roads now subject to 60 mph limits to also rise by 5 mph.

There are 16 states with speed limits of 75 mph or higher, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Legislation heading to Scott says goodbye to FCAT

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014 by John Kennedy

Beating back a push by Democrats seeking a longer delay, the Republican-ruled House approved a measure Wednesday revamping the state’s school-grading system and ushering in a replacement for the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

The so-far unnamed new test is being developed by the private firm, American Institutes for Research. But it is scheduled to replace the FCAT in the coming year and incorporate provisions of the Common Core Standards, the classroom system being used by Florida and more than 40 other states.

The legislation (CS/SB 1642) was approved 76-42 in a partyline vote. It now goes to Gov. Rick Scott, who is almost certain to sign it into law.

The bill would erase penalties schools could currently face for any ‘F’ or ‘D’ grades earned in the 2014-15 school year. But Democrats, backed by school superintendents from Palm Beach and many other districts, had pushed for a three-year pause in testing penalties.

Florida’s problems with FCAT testing, which included online interruptions that affected Palm Beach and other counties earlier this month, fueled Democratic concerns.

“Slow down the process so we get it right,” said Rep. Mark Danish, D-Tampa. “Instead, we’re rushing.”

Republicans, however, said it was important to continue moving forward in student assessment. The one-year penalty pause should be enough, they assured.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Florida’s Future, an advocate of the Common Core, is among the groups supporting the legislation.

A governor’s tour and displays of rusty pipe helps yield $1M for Palm Beach County

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014 by John Kennedy

Palm Beach County officials first brought Gov. Rick Scott on a tour of the Glades water treatment plant and later shipped pieces of corroded piping to Capitol offices where they sat as rusty reminders of the local wish list.

But it wasn’t until the closing moments of back-and-forth negotiations on the state’s proposed $75 billion budget that $1 million was added, advancing plans to replace the leaking water system serving Belle Glade, South Bay and Pahokee.

“With a group effort, we got it done,” said Sen. Joe Abruzzo, D-Wellington, whose district includes the economically-strapped Glades area.

Helped by the state’s biggest budget surplus since pre-recession days, Florida lawmakers are freely spending state taxpayer cash on dozens of hometown projects along with taking election-year steps to increase spending on environmental programs, public schools and universities, child-protection services and health care.

State lawmakers, though, also are rolling the dice – reviving plenty of spending vetoed last year by Gov. Rick Scott, which includes the Glades’ pipe work.

Amid a flurry of hometown spending, budget deal done

Monday, April 28th, 2014 by John Kennedy

The final touches to a roughly $75 billion state budget were settled Monday by House and Senate negotiators, clearing the way for an on-time finish this week to the 2014 Legislature.

A $1.2 billion surplus from the state’s improving economy eased spending decisions by budget-writers as they raced toward Friday’s session-end deadline.

But the extra cash also allowed lawmakers to steer millions of state dollars toward hometown projects – for arts programs, social services, water projects and college buildings. Many likely face the threat of Gov. Rick Scott’s veto pen.

“The budget isn’t about numbers, it’s about values and priorities,” said Senate Budget Chief Joe Negron, R-Stuart, telegraphing a theme lawmakers will likely use in urging Scott to go light on vetoes this election year.

Negron and his House counterpart, Rep. Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland, worked through the weekend settling a host of education, health care, transportation and environmental issues that had divided the two sides.

Among the last issues settled Monday were spending for college and university construction and almost $74 million scattered across some 200 water projects across the state.

In the mix, $6 million for Palm Beach State College’s long-sought Loxahatchee Groves campus – vetoed three times in recent years by Scott and his predecessor, Gov. Charlie Crist – and several wastewater projects in Belle Glade, Riviera Beach and Royal Palm Beach.

Senate approves local pension overhaul facing uncertain future in House

Monday, April 28th, 2014 by John Kennedy

The Florida Senate set itself on a collision course Monday by approving a proposal overhauling local police and fire pensions but ignoring a more sweeping plan that cleared the House last week.

The Senate approach (CS/SB 246) give cities a chance to use the state’s insurance premium tax to bolster police and fire pension funds.

With the support of police and fire unions, the bill relaxes a 1999 law that required cities to offer only new benefits with these tax dollars, a move that analysts say has contributed to many funds now becoming financially troubled.

“This is one of the great crises facing Florida,” said Sen. Jeremy Ring, D-Margate, who has been working four years on trying to forge a consensus on local pensions.

The House, however, has merged a similar pension bill with a larger change to the Florida Retirement System. The FRS rewrite has little support in the Senate, and the House tactic is clearly aimed at trying to muscle senators into accepting it if they want to repair local pensions.

Ring acknowledged that in the session’s closing week, it’s difficult to predict the local pension bill’s fate. But he said it is poised to improve retirement accounts across Florida.

“If and when this bill passes, we won’t be involved in local pensions again,” Ring assured senators.

The Leroy Collins Institute at Florida State University has studied the state’ municipal pensions, sounding alarms about the financial health of many plans.

Those drawing low marks in the 2011 review, included Boynton Beach’s police plan and Palm Beach Gardens’ police and fire plans – while West Palm Beach’s police pension was named among the best-funded in the state.

The study concluded that the municipal pension slide began in the early 2000s, well before the recession. The timing is close to when Gov. Jeb Bush and the Republican-led Legislature approved changes which improved city police and fire pensions.

The law was effectively a payback for unions which endorsed Bush over Democrat Buddy MacKay in the 1998 governor’s race.

With a late-night huddle, House, Senate all but button-up budget talks

Monday, April 28th, 2014 by John Kennedy

The House and Senate all-but buttoned up a roughly $75 billion state budget late Sunday night, but still face another day of haggling over language that will implement the 2014-15 spending plan.

House Budget Chief Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland, and Senate counterpart Joe Negron, R-Stuart, took part in public meetings twice Sunday — the last gaveled in shortly after 11 p.m. Agreements covered a range of education, health care and environmental issues that had been separating the two sides.

In one of the biggest budget areas — public school spending — lawmakers settled on a 2.6 percent per-pupil increase for Florida’s 2.7 million school kids. That should boost spending by about $175 per-student to around $6,935, still below the state’s pre-recession level of $7,126 reached in 2007-08.

The funding level is less than what the House originally proposed — at 3 percent, but about where the Senate originally recommended. Both sides beat Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed 2.5 percent increase.

With a budget surplus of $1.2 billion, spending decisions were made easier. But lawmakers are still racing toward a Tuesday deadline of having the final budget before lawmakers so a constitutionally required 72-hour waiting period can pass before a vote Friday, the session’s last scheduled day.

Other deals Sunday included the House going along with the Senate on the bulk of environmental spending, including $47 million for beach restoration,$73.9 million for hometown water projects and $22.8 million for springs preservation work, less than half the $55 million sought by Scott.

$10 million for quiet zones cash tucked into state spending plan

Sunday, April 27th, 2014 by John Kennedy

House budget chief Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland, and his Senate counterpart, Joe Negron, R-Stuart, huddle before Sunday conference meeting.

House and Senate budget negotiators agreed Sunday to create a $10 million grant program to pay for railroad crossing upgrades needed in Palm Beach County and elsewhere in anticipation of the passenger rail project All Aboard Florida.

The Senate earlier proposed the spending for the so-called quiet zones. But its fate was uncertain until Sunday when the House signed-off on the plan amid talks aimed at settling a $75 billion state budget for 2014-15.

Elected officials from throughout the coastal areas of Palm Beach County, working largely through the Palm Beach Metropolitan Planning Organization, had asked the state for help the work needed.

The express private service would run from Miami to Orlando with stops in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. But the added 32 trains a day have residents and business owners near the Florida East Coast Railroad tracks worried about noise, traffic congestion and boating delays.

The $2.5 billion rail project – whose price tag recently spiked – is already controversial.

While the quiet zone provision was tucked into the Senate budget by Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, Senate Budget Chief Joe Negron, R-Stuart, on Sunday reiterated that the spending should not be taken as support for the project.

“I haven’t come around to that,” Negron said. “There’s support in the Legislature for quiet zones so there’s money…but it’s not money I personally advocated for. There is agreement on the amount.”

House compensation bill OK’d; “Will help Florida heal”

Friday, April 25th, 2014 by John Kennedy

The House unanimously approved a measure Friday that would make a former farmworker eligible for state compensation after he was wrongfully accused of killing his seven children and spent more than two decades behind bars.

James Richardson, now 77, lived in Arcadia when a few days before Halloween 1967, he was accused of poisoning his children when they came home for lunch. He was quickly convicted and condemned to death.

But a 1989 investigation ordered by then-Gov. Bob Martinez revealed wholesale misconduct by investigators and prosecutors, leading to Richardson being set free. Still, because of the circumstances of his case, Richardson does not qualify for state payment under the state’s five-year-old wrongful incarceration law.

The legislation (CS/HB 227) approved 116-0 Friday would make Richardson eligible for $1.2 million in compensation. The bill still has to clear the Senate.

“You will help Mr. Richardson heal, and you will help Florida heal,” said Rep. Dave Kerner, D-Lake Worth, sponsor of the House bill.

The legislation had been stalled in the House. But Florida’s Legislative Black Caucus appealed to House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, to advance the measure, which Kerner said proved pivotal.

“I hope this helps us turn the corner in Florida’s history,” Kerner said.

Two decades wrongfully behind bars, an old man moves closer to state payment

Friday, April 25th, 2014 by John Kennedy

A former farmworker convicted but later cleared of killing his seven children in DeSoto County in 1967 could become eligible for more than$1 million in state compensation, under a measure poised for final approval in the state House.

James Richardson spent more than 20 years in prison –including four years on Death Row – before being released in 1989 after an investigation revealed wide-ranging misconduct by investigators and prosecutors. He is now age 77 and in frail health, living in Wichita, Kansas.

Although Richardson is currently disqualified, the measure(HB 227) by Rep. Dave Kerner, D-Lake Worth, would make him eligible for payment under the state’s 2009 wrongful incarceration law. Kerner said the move is needed to reverse a “legacy of injustice.”

The legislation earned preliminary approval Thursday in the House. The Senate is expected to consider a similar measure (CS/SB 326) next week.

 

Negron advice on budget talks: ‘Don’t leave the Capitol’

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014 by John Kennedy

Millions of dollars in hometown water projects along with money for cleanup of the Everglades and troubled Indian River Lagoon were among the big ticket issues separating House and Senate budget negotiators as they worked toward a midnight deadline Wednesday.

The bottom-line for public schools and terms of the state’s plan to distribute $200 million in performance incentives to Florida’s 12 public universities still separates the two sides, working since Monday on reaching a consensus $75 billion budget for 2014-15.

The dozens of issues that are certain to remain unsettled will be handed over to House budget chairman Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland, and his Senate counterpart, Joe Negron, R-Stuart, on Thursday. They’ll begin more deal-making that will stretch through the weekend.

“One thing you learn when you get to Tallahassee is you don’t leave the Capitol building the weekend before session ends, because one of your projects may have been traded for someone who is still in the Capitol,” Negron said. “We’ll be working over the weekend and, of course, the presiding officers will have the last word on the budget.”

Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, and House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, have until Tuesday to button-up the spending plan. That would start the clock on the state’s constitutionally required 72-hour waiting period preceding a May 2 vote, the session’s final scheduled day.

The House spends $13 million more than the Senate on three-dozen local water projects, including money sought for work in Palm Beach County. The House also spends $12 million more than the Senate on freshwater springs protection — but the overall level on both sides still falls short of what Gov. Rick Scott wants.

Work on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee — close to Negron’s home district — draws at least $82 million in the Senate, but would get nothing in the House spending plan. Scores of differences also remain on hometown projects close to top lawmakers, including cash for theaters, schools, and social service programs.

“Some of the projects will fall out during conference, some will be added,” Negron said.

House ban on e-cigs for kids lets local regulations stand

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014 by John Kennedy

Laws already regulating the sale of electronic cigarettes in Palm Beach County and other communities would endure under legislation approved Wednesday that ban their sale to minors.

The House voted 114-0 to approve the statewide prohibition on selling nicotine dispensing devices to those under age 18. The measure still has to win final approval from the Senate before going to Gov. Rick Scott.

Anti-smoking advocates were opposing the House’s earlier version of the bill, which would have eliminated local ordinances restricting various sales and display of the devices.

But sponsor Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, withdrew that provision, drawing praise from supporters of the tougher law.

“He’s doing what’s right for the state of Florida,” said Rep. Jim Waldman, D-Coconut Creek.

Palm Beach County is among 28 counties and 28 Florida cities which have adopted some kind of e-cigarette regulation that could have been affected by the initial House proposal, which took standards regulating cigarettes and smokeless tobacco and applied them to e-cigarettes.

The Florida Retail Federation was among those pushing for the so-called statewide preemption of local regulations.

Florida’s Clean Indoor Air Act, enacted in 1985, has prohibited communities from enacting tougher local standards than what the state law set. But like the name implies, it’s aimed chiefly at barring smoking indoors, at workplaces, restaurants and other public buildings.

Still, the statewide preemption has tripped up local efforts to ban smoking on beaches, and this year inspired a push for legislation to allow a smoking ban on playgrounds, a proposal which hasn’t gained traction with lawmakers.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Florida is among 12 states that have a statewide standard banning tougher local regulations, a number that is down from 19 states in 2004.

 

 

Abruzzo hits pause on revamp of local ethics panels, summit to follow

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014 by John Kennedy

An effort to revamp how the Palm Beach County Ethics Commission and similar local panels operate will be postponed for a year while organizations which have dueled over the proposal take part in a planned August summit, Sen. Joe Abruzzo said Tuesday.

Abruzzo, sponsor of the ethics rewrite, will be joined Wednesday at a Capitol news conference by representatives of government watchdog groups and officials from the Palm Beach, Jacksonville and Miami-Dade County ethics panel.

The Wellington Democrat said legislation has advanced (SB 1474) and a similar House proposal (HB 1315) are on track for full votes in the two chambers. But lingering questions about the measures have prompted the call for a pause, Abruzzo said.

“I believe it is in the best interest of the people to hold the first-ever statewide summit on ethics reform within the communities,” Abruzzo said. He added that a goal would be to devise “policy that is unanimously supported,” for next year’s session.

Palm Beach County officials initially fought Abruzzo’s proposal, but came around to support the latest version of the plan. Jacksonville and Miami-Dade, however, still questioned some provisions, and had been joined by Integrity Florida, the Florida League of Women Voters, and other groups in urging more work on the proposal.

“The commissions and organizations appear to agree that reform is needed, specifically in the area of due process where one board is not the investigator, prosecutor, jury, judge, appellate court, and clerk of the courts,” Abruzzo said. “This will be the premise of the summit.”

Palm Beach County ethics officials had feared Abruzzo’s bill would strip them of much of their authority. But a later revision softened those concerns, requiring local commissions to give those accused of violations an option of having their guilt decided by an entity other than the ethics commission.

Palm Beach County’s ethics commission currently reviews complaints to determine whether probable cause exists to conduct a hearing. If a formal hearing is held, the commission is also responsible for determining whether the person involved is guilty of violating the county’s ethics rules.

 

Watchdog groups urge action on ethics bills in session’s homestretch

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014 by John Kennedy

Watchdog groups Wednesday urged Florida lawmakers to finalize ethics proposals that would strengthen access to public records and require more lobbyists to register and disclose how much they get paid.

Both measures have cleared the Senate, but are languishing in the House. The Legislature returns from a Passover-Easter break on Monday to begin the session’s last scheduled two weeks.

Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, and House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, have touted ethics reforms as a central part of their two-year term as leaders. This year’s proposals could represent a postscript to steps taken last year, which included a revamping of how political fund-raising committees operate.

Dan Krassner, executive director of Integrity Florida, a government oversight group, said lawmakers need to enhance last year’s moves.

“We encourage our legislative leaders to build on these small steps and pass major ethics reform and open government legislation in the remaining two weeks,” Krassner said.

Among those calling for action were representatives of the First Amendment Foundation, Common Cause of Florida, the Citizens Awareness Foundation and Tea Party Network.

Barbara Petersen, president of the news organization-backed First Amendment Foundation, said that while 250 public records exemptions existed in 1985, that number could climb to 1,100 if some two-dozen proposed loopholes are created this year.

One bill (SB 1648) pushed by advocates Wednesday clarifies issues involving fees for public records, including those sought by citizens and later costs run up by attorneys seeking documents. It also requires more training of government employees to satisfy the demands of Florida’s open records laws.

The other measure (SB 846) seen as a priority by open government advocates would require lobbyists working the state’s almost 1,000 independent special districts to register and publicly disclose how much they get paid.

Palm Beach County, alone, has more than 60 such districts, ranging from the huge South Florida Water Management District to municipal airport, port, drainage and community development districts.

Billions of taxpayer dollars flow through these districts.

“Certainly, our state lawmakers are outnumbered by lobbyists nearly 12-to-1,” Krassner said. “The lobbying community…is very powerful in our state Capitol. Any measure that looks to require more disclosure from lobbyists is going to face some resistance.”

Bill tightening oversight of summer camp employees advances in Senate

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014 by John Kennedy

A measure aimed at tightening state oversight of summer camp employees, inspired by a 2012 Palm Beach Post series on abuses in the current system, cleared a Senate panel Tuesday.

The bill (SB 1424) by Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, was approved by the Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee. It would authorize the state’s Department of Children & Families to create a statewide database containing names of summer camp personnel, who have cleared a state-required criminal background check.

The proposal follows a Post investigation that found convicted child molesters and other felons had worked at or owned summer camps throughout the state. Clemens and Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, have since been pushing to pass a law requiring the statewide registry of summer camps.

DCF took early steps at creating a database last year, but apparently could not proceed without further authorization by the Legislature.

In the past. legislative leaders, including House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, said the burden should be on parents – and not the state — to ensure that camp operators are conducting the background checks. Some Republican lawmakers also balked at an earlier $3 million price tag analysts said would be associated with creating the registry. It was unclear Tuesday whether that cost endured under the current proposal.

The action Tuesday was the bill’s first hearing in either the House or Senate.

Gambling expansion “not in the cards,” Senate told

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014 by John Kennedy

Senate Gaming Chairman Garrett Richter addressed the Senate Thursday, telling his colleagues that proposals to revamp gambling in Florida are dead for this session.

Although the session has just passed its midpoint, Richter said what had become increasingly clear: There are just too many moving parts to the issue.

“Comprehensive reform is not in the cards this session,” Richter, R-Naples, told the Senate.

In an election year, keeping alive prospects for opening new casino resorts in South Florida, additional card rooms at pari-mutuel facilities, and other sweeteners, has been a surefire way to assure that campaign contributions flow from gambling companies to lawmakers and the state’s political parties.

But central to any idea is Gov. Rick Scott reaching agreement on renewing the Seminole Tribe compact that is set to expire next year. Scott has been talking to the tribe. But the status of the talks have been closely guarded.

Richter fed into that murkiness Thursday.

“We can reasonable expect an agreement soon,” Richter said, although not offering any further details.

But for now, all bets are off.

“This is nothing that’s going to be accomplished by one committee in one session,” said Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, vice-chair of the Senate’s gambling plan.

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