Across Florida
What's happening on other political blogs?

Ellyn Bogdanoff’

Latvala, Republican Senators chip in for Dem commission primary in Palm Beach County

Monday, November 18th, 2013 by George Bennett

McKinlay

The impressive $28,654 that Democratic Palm Beach County commission candidate Melissa McKinlay raised in her first month of campaigning includes a combined $4,000 from state Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, and five of Latvala’s current or former Republican Senate colleagues.

Latvala

Latvala gave McKinlay $1,500 through two businesses and a political committee. Other Republicans who gave McKinlay $500 through committees or businesses were former Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff of Fort Lauderdale and current Sens. Miguel Diaz De La Portilla of Miami, Nancy Detert of Venice, Denise Grimsley of Sebastian and Greg Evers of Okaloosa County.

The Senators are all considered supporters of Latvala’s 2016 bid for the Senate presidency. Latvala couldn’t be reached for comment last week on why he and his network are interested in a local Democratic race in Palm Beach County. But McKinlay-backing Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Atlantis, said the connection doesn’t surprise him. McKinlay is an aide to the county legislative delegation and Clemens said he and Latvala have met with McKinlay to discuss Palm Beach County issues.

Subscribers to MyPalmBeachPost.com can read more about McKinlay’s debut report and the competitive commission District 6 race in this week’s Politics column. Short-term access is available for as little as 99 cents a day.

Deputies on hand for political brouhaha at child care meeting west of Delray

Friday, July 12th, 2013 by George Bennett

Bill de la Sierra outside Florida Association for Child Care Management meeting.

You might not think a meeting of day care providers would require a law enforcement presence, but Palm Beach County Sheriff’s deputies are on hand at the South County Civic Center this morning for a contentious meeting of the Florida Association for Child Care Management.

A faction claims the organization — which has former Republican state Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff as its executive director — is too focused on politics and legislation in Tallahassee. The faction, which brought about 60 people in matching T-shirts to the meeting, is trying to sway board of directors elections today but so far appears to be getting shut out. The meeting is closed to the press.

“I declare this meeting null and void,” said Bill de la Sierra, owner of a Hialeah preschool and elementary school, after being tossed out of the meeting. Sierra has been heading up efforts to install a new board.

“The organization is more interested in the glitz, the legislative issues, the politics and they have forgotten the members,” de la Sierra said. “The work that this organization was set out to do – which is provide support for the members, whether accreditation or education — has been completely set aside.”

De la Sierra blamed Bogdanoff and FACCM President Daniel Osborne for the steering the organization too far in a political direction.

(more…)

Pink peeps prohibition back on tap

Thursday, February 7th, 2013 by Dara Kam

Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, has filed a bill (SB 650) that would reinstate a ban on dying animals – including bunnies, chicks and ducklings – after the legislature stripped the 50-year-old prohibition last year.

Animal rights groups asked Gov. Rick Scott to veto the measure, included in an omnibus agriculture bill, last year.

The repeal of the ban on dying animals, including bunnies and baby chickens, was pushed by Sachs’s one-time foe, former Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale. Sachs defeated Bogdanoff in one of the state’s most expensive and hotly-contested legislative races in November.

Bogdanoff contended that dog groomers wanted the prohibition lifted so they could colorize pets in competitions or parades.

The Animal Rights Foundation of Florida praised Sachs for sponsoring the ban, which would also make it illegal to sell or give away baby chickens, ducklings or rabbits.

A statement from ARFF posits that Bogdanoff’s defeat was “an outcome perhaps impacted by Bogdanoff’s ill-conceived amendment.”

“ARFF is very happy that Senator Sachs has introduced legislation to reinstate the protections afforded animals in the 1967 law that was repealed,” said ARFF spokesman Don Anthony wrote. “We urge Florida legislators to pass this important bill.”

Sachs defeats Bogdanoff in brutal, costly Senate District 34 race

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach

After a brutal and expensive contest, Democratic state Sen. Maria Sachs is returning to Tallahassee after edging out GOP opponent Ellyn Bogdanoff in the state’s only battle between two incumbent lawmakers.

With nearly all precincts reporting, Sachs, a former prosecutor from Delray Beach, handily defeated Bogdanoff, a Fort Lauderdale lawyer, in Palm Beach County, winning more than 56 percent of the county votes. Bogdanoff maintained a lead in Broward County in the newly drawn, Democratic-leaning district.

Speaking to supporters at a Democratic victory party in West Palm Beach Tuesday night, Sachs called her victory a defeat of a political “machine” that “beat up a little guy.”

Instead, she added, “it’s the little guy here who beat them up.”

“And we didn’t do it with money, did we? We didn’t do it with limousines. We didn’t do it with phony TV ads. We didn’t do it with airplane banners. You know how we did it? We did it with people,” she said.

Sachs said the race wasn’t about her and Bogdanoff but “about the power of money of corporate greed and the arrogance of power trying to take over the people.”

Bogdanoff and Sachs were both elected to the Senate two years ago after serving in the state House. After redistricting, both women’s districts were redrawn and they opted to run for the new seat encompassing portions of southern Palm Beach County and northern Broward County.

The race was considered by leaders of both parties the most important legislative contest in the state. A Bogdanoff win would have allow Republicans to maintain a two-thirds majority in the chamber and meant a virtual carte blanche to pass legislation without cooperation from Democrats.

With a price tag estimated at up to $10 million, the District 34 race was one of the most expensive legislative races in Florida. And the contest was highlighted by ugly attacks on both sides with accusations involving limo rides, the Holocaust and abortion.

Sachs threatened to sue the state Republican party over a mailer she said scared Jewish voters. The mailer accused Sachs, whose husband is Jewish and who traveled to Israel with Gov. Rick Scott, of “a political power play” with her vote against the state budget that included funding for the Florida Holocaust Museum and holocaust survivors.

Palm Beach County Republican Party chief Sid Dinerstein also filed an ethics complaint against Sachs last month, accusing Sachs of breaking state law by neglecting to report her legislative salary as income and a Tallahassee condo she owns with her husband on her financial disclosure forms. And the Republican Party of Florida also ran TV ads accusing Sachs of more than $7,000 worth of limo rides without submitting receipts for the state-paid travel.

The Florida Democratic Party paid for ads accusing Bogdanoff of “crimes” including “child abandonment, senior abuse and neglect, plus forcing pregnant women to have ultrasounds,” referring to Bogdanoff’s votes on legislation and the budget.

Incoming Senate President Don Gaetz congratulated Sachs on her win but was unapologetic about the partisan attacks.

“Senator Bogdanoff ran a hard-fought campaign in a district where Republicans are less than one-third of registered voters. The hard work and vigor she displayed on the campaign trail comes second only to the dedication with which she has approached her role in the Senate. I am proud that our Republican Caucus strongly supported Senator Bogdanoff and that many members of our caucus raised resources to help her and came to South Florida to walk door-to-door for her. She will be truly missed in the Senate,” Gaetz, R-Niceville, said in a statement. “I fully expect Ellyn Bogdanoff to resume her service to the people of Southeast Florida in future years. I congratulate Senator Maria Sachs on her victory and look forward to working across the aisle with her in the days ahead.”

Sachs joins a handful of Democrats who made surprising upsets in legislative races on Tuesday. Democrats ousted incumbent state Rep. Peter Nehr, R-Tarpon Springs, and nailed down two open seats in GOP-dominated Central Florida. Late Tuesday night, future House Speaker Chris Dorworth, R-Lake Mary, appeared to be leading Democratic opponent by less than 100 votes.

Boca police make rare arrest for vandalism of Maria Sachs political sign

Thursday, November 1st, 2012 by Andrew Abramson

While Charles Mitchell certainly isn’t the first person to damage a political sign, he was one of the rare people actually arrested for the offense.

Mitchell, of Boca Raton, was arrested early this morning when a police officer saw Mitchell “running from a destroyed Maria Sachs political sign located at 200 West Yamato Road,” according to the police report.

The officer had witnessed Mitchell destroy the sign moments before. According to police, Mitchell said, “I did a bad thing. I will pay to have the sign fixed.” The police officer later found a second Sachs sign vandalized on NW 2nd Ave.

Sachs was listed as the victim on the police report. The damage was estimated at $200.

Democrat Sachs is facing Republican Ellyn Bogdanoff in the state’s only senate race between two incumbents.

Bogdanoff chastised for Republican mailer saying Sachs voted against Holocaust funding

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012 by Andrew Abramson

Republican Party mailer

DELRAY BEACH — Maria Sachs, surrounded by Democratic Jewish politicians, her Jewish husband and her in-laws who survived the Holocaust, demanded an apology today from state senate opponent Ellyn Bogdanoff for a Republican Party mailer that accuses Sachs of voting against the state budget that included funding for the Florida Holocaust Museum, Florida Holocaust Task Force and South Florida Holocaust Survivor assistance program.

“Ellyn Bogdanoff, you crossed the line,” said Sachs as she choked up during a news conference at the South County Civic Center. “You talk about lies, limos, lost receipts, but this is wrong. This is repugnant. This is absolutely over the line. I demand an apology to the Sachs family, my mom and dad (in-laws) who live here in Century Village. I demand an apology to everybody in our state legislature, especially those who are behind me and all the work they have done to make sure our survivors are honored and respected and never ever used as a political tool.”

Before the news conference, Bogdanoff, a Jewish Republican, defended the mailer.

“If you vote against the budget to make a political statement, you are making a political statement about everything in that budget,” Bogdanoff said.

(more…)

Competing endorsements in Palm Beach County senate races

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Palm Beach County legislative candidates nailed down several endorsements recently, including support from polar opposites in the Senate District 27 primary contest between Democratic state Reps. Jeff Clemens and Mack Bernard.

The all-Palm Beach County senate district race is shaping up to be a business vs. labor union battle, not an unusual platform for many campaigns. Except this race is between two Democrats, who rarely receive glowing endorsements from business-backed lobbies (except in Democratic primaries.)

Two of the state’s biggest labor unions – the AFL-CIO and SEIU – are backing state Rep. Jeff Clemens, a Lake Worth Democrat, Clemens’ campaign announced today. The AFL-CIO also endorsed Clemens in his run for the House seat he now holds.

Rep. Mack Bernard, D-West Palm Beach, nailed down an endorsement from the Florida Chamber of Commerce today. Bernard already has the endorsement of one of Florida’s other top business lobbies – Associated Industries of Florida. The newly drawn District 27 seat stretches generally west of the turnpike in Palm Beach County.

The Chamber also endorsed state Rep. Joe Abruzzo, D-Wellington. Abruzzo will face off against the winner of a GOP primary between Melanie Peterson and Geoff Sommers.

Avoiding what might have been a brutal primary against Abruzzo, Sachs is running for the new Democratic-leaning District 34, a Palm Beach-Broward seat, against Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale.

Florida Democratic chairman’s Joe Namath moment: ‘I promise’ Sachs will beat Bogdanoff in Senate race

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012 by George Bennett

Joe Namath making his 1969 guarantee that Jets will beat Colts in Super Bowl III. He delivered -- will Rod Smith and Florida Democrats do the same in Senate District 34?

Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith says the state Senate District 34 race between Democratic Sen. Maria Sachs and Republican Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff is the Democrats’ top Senate priority this year and he’s promising that Sachs will win.

The two incumbents were thrown into the same race by redistricting.

Smith’s promise has a brash, Joe Namath pre-Super Bowl III tone. But the new Palm Beach-Broward district has a Democratic tilt, so a Sachs isn’t really an underdog.

“The number one race and focus is right here in Maria Sachs. Number one for the state. Whatever it takes, however long it takes, whatever the work is, we’re going to to do it because we’re going to win this race,” Smith told about 120 Sachs supporters Monday night in West Delray.

Smith said Sachs looked at the new map and, rather than run against Democratic Rep. Joseph Abruzzo in Senate District 25, said “I’ll take a Republican, I’ll take her out.”

Smith added: “And that’s what’s going to happen down here, I promise.”

“However much money we need to raise, however much money we need to spend. However many times we have to hit every one of you up to help us, we’re going to do it. Because I’m not going to be at the end of night saying ‘Oh, I wish we had done just a little bit more in Palm Beach and Broward County.’ We’re going to take this seat and I promise you, it’s a Democrat-performing seat. It voted for Barack Obama last time; it will again. It’s voted for Bill Nelson every time; it will again. And it’s going to vote Democrat if we go out and tell our precincts, our neighborhoods, our communities and our friends that this is the number one race for us, and we win this race.”

High partisan stakes in Bogdanoff-Sachs Senate race

Monday, May 21st, 2012 by George Bennett

Bogdanoff

With redistricting leading incumbent Republican Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff and incumbent Democratic Sen. Maria Sachs to run in the same Palm Beach-Broward state Senate district, both candidates are bringing out the big partisan guns.

Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith and incoming Senate Democratic Leader Chris Smith plan to attend Sachs’ campaign kickoff event tonight at the South County Civic Center west of Delray Beach.

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, one of the most popular Republicans in the state, announced his endorsement for Bogdanoff today.

Atwater used to represent a coastal Palm Beach-Broward Senate district that leaned Republican. But the new district where Bogdanoff and Sachs are running has a Democratic advantage.

Democrats have successfully cleared the field for Sachs, with former Rep. Kevin Rader dropping a Sachs primary challenge and running in another district instead. Bogdanoff, meanwhile, faces a challenge from the right by Mike Lameyer in the GOP primary.

Animal groups ask Scott to keep prohibition on pastel peeps, veto pink bunnies bill

Thursday, March 8th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Animal rights groups are asking Gov. Rick Scott to veto a measure that would do away with a nearly 50-year old prohibition on dyeing animals.

Lawmakers passed the bill (HB 1197) this week over the objection of a handful of those who objected that the ban is needed to keep colored bunnies, chicks and ducklings from popping up in kids’ Easter baskets then abandoned months later when their cuteness wears off.

Senate bill sponsor Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, said she filed the measure at the request of a pet groomer who wants to be able to dye dogs for competitions.

But PETA and the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida have sent action alert to their members and today asked Scott to use his red pen to kill the bill, saying coloring farm animals for Easter treats is a “death sentence” for the critters.

“Blue and pink bunnies and chicks may appeal to children, who will pester their parents to purchase them, but dyeing these small animals can be a death sentence for the animals as every humane agency in the country well knows,” PETA Vice President Daphna Nachminovich said in a press release. Read PETA’s letter to Scott here.

The abandoned animals will crowd the state’s already overburdened animal shelters, PETA argues.

Senate Easter basket special? Pink bunnies!

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012 by Dara Kam

UPDATE: Easter baskets could get even more festive if Gov. Rick Scott signs off on a bill heading his way that will allow farm animals, including bunnies, ducklings and chicks, to be dyed – that’s colored, not killed. The House passed the measure 109-5.

Nearly 50 years ago, Florida outlawed dyed bunnies, chickens and ducks.

But just in time for Easter, kids may find pink or green bunnies tucked in with other mellifluous treats in their holiday baskets after the Florida Senate tacked on an amendment to an agriculture bill (HB 1197) dealing with honeybees and other critters.

Animal- loving Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich tried to get the amendment stripped off, saying the statute banning animal dying comes under the “animal cruelty” section of the Florida Statutes.

Dyed bunnies, ducks and baby chicks “look really cute at a couple of months of age” Rich, D-Weston, argued. “But when they get older and nobody wants them, then they get loose or taken to our shelters.”

But Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, the amendment sponsor, said dog groomers want the ban on dying lifted so they can colorize pets for competitions and parades. She said dying dogs isn’t cruel and rejected Rich’s argument that pets don’t get asked if they want their fur dyed.

“We neuter dogs without their permission. I’ve never asked my poodle if he wanted a hair cut,” Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, said. “Animal cruelty is wrong…but dying a dog’s hair or horse’s tail I don’t think is cruel.”

But Rich didn’t back down.

“This is not about grooming poodles,” she said. “This…is a way of ensuring that we don’t have a lot of little adorable ducks, rabbits and chickens that are given away at Easter time and look so cute and then two or three months later nobody wants them.”

Rich’s attempt failed, and the amended ag bill now goes back to the House.

Comparison of House and Senate gambling bills

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012 by Dara Kam

The House released its version of a gambling proposal, slated for its first committee vote tomorrow, that opens the door casinos in what could be a permanent game-changer for Sunshine State tourism.

While both the House and Senate plans would allow up to three high-end “destination resorts” to open, the House proposal would limit them to Broward and Miami-Dade counties, where slot machines outside of Indian casinos are already up-and-running thanks to voter approval.

The two plans (HB 487, SB 710) include differences about who could give the casino licenses, who would oversee a new gambling agency and the future of Internet cafés.

- Internet cafés: HB 487 would ban them altogether. SB 710 would regulate them, charge operators $100 per terminal and allow local government to prohibit them.
- Games: SB 710 would allow pari-mutuels in the counties where destination resorts open to offer the same games that the casinos have, meaning dog and horse tracks and jai-alai frontons near the casinos could have blackjack, roulette or craps.
- Voter approval: Both bills would require voters to approve the destination resorts by referendum. But the House version would only allow the casinos to be licensed in Broward or Miami-Dade counties.
- Oversight: HB 487 would give the governor and the Florida Cabinet oversight of a new agency – the Department of Gaming Control. The governor and Cabinet would also choose which casino operators would get resort licenses. SB 710 would create a statewide gambling commission that would oversee the Department of Gaming. The commission would pick the casino vendors.
- Taxes: Both set a 10 percent tax rate for game revenues at the destination resorts and would lower the tax rate on slot machines at pari-mutuels (now 35 percent) in counties where a destination resort opens to 10 percent.

After two workshops, the House Business and Consumer Affairs Committee will vote on the bill tomorrow morning. The Senate Regulated Industries Committee approved Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff’s version weeks ago but faces an uphill battle at its next stop in opponent John Thrasher’s Rules Committee.

Lawmakers give casinos bill first thumbs-up

Monday, January 9th, 2012 by Dara Kam

A sweeping gambling bill that would allow up to three casinos in Florida passed its first hurdle late Monday with a 7-3 vote in the Senate Regulated Industries Committee.

The measure (SB 710) would allow voters in any county to sign off on the “destination resorts” and allow pari-mutuels in to have whatever games the casinos offer, including blackjack and baccarat – if state regulators grant a casino permit in the county. And it would bar any new dog or horse tracks or jai-alai frontons from opening anywhere in the state.

Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, the bill’s sponsor, acknowledged that the future of her proposal – dealing with everything from a new gambling commission to the casinos to Internet cafes – is anything but certain.

“Yeah, this is a big lift and there’s a lot of stuff in here. Call it what you want. Call it an expansion. Call it a reform. Call it a redirection…My hope is that we would stop the proliferation of gaming through clever lawyering or loopholes,” Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, said before the vote.

Senate President Mike Haridopolos appeared to have fast-tracked the bill – it received its first committee vote the day before the legislative session opened – and said he wants an early floor vote on it. But that may not happen, said Sen. John Thrasher, chairman of the Rules and Calendar Committee, the bill’s final stop before it goes to the full chamber. First, it heads to the Senate Budget committee.

But the House has yet to hold a single hearing on its version, Thrasher pointed out.

“They have not had the first peep over there in terms of listening to the arguments about this bill,” Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, said. “I’ve got a feeling that…they’re going to have to show some movement in the House before we take it any further.”

Gambling bill rewrite tweaked. Changes tax rates, keeps Internet cafes alive and stays out of barrel racing brouhaha

Friday, January 6th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff‘s latest rewrite of a sweeping gambling measure includes a few major changes but keeps intact the voter approval required for three casinos anywhere in the state and still would allow for Florida’s existing pari-mutuels to offer Las Vegas-style slot machines, again if voters give the thumbs up.

But Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, does make one big change in the 170-page amendment filed late Friday afternoon – instead of completely doing away with the “Internet cafes,” it would regulate them. The so-called “casinos on the corner,” operating now as sweepstakes games, would have to register with the state’s new gambling department (also included in her strike-all amendment), put up a bond and certify that the games comply with laws already on the books. A draft version of the measure released two weeks ago would have outlawed the Internet cafes that critics say prey on the poor. Palm Beach County commissioners voted yesterday to ban new Internet cafes from popping up in unincorporated areas.

The new version of the bill (SB 710) would still allow the state’s existing dog and horse tracks – including Palm Beach Kennel Club – and jai-alai frontons to offer slots if voters approve. But instead of having to spend $100 million to upgrade their facilities in exchange for the slots, the pari-mutuel operators would have to pay a one-time $125 million licensing fee.

The catch-all bill also does away with the tax parity the racinos in Miami-Dade and Broward counties had hoped for. Now, the South Florida pari-mutuels would have an 18 percent tax rate on slots – down from the current 35 percent – but not until the proposed casinos are up and running. The casinos would pay a tax rate of 10 percent.

Unlike Bogdanoff’s recent draft, her latest proposal does nothing about barrel racing, now an authorized racing format at a Panhandle track and under consideration at another. Gov. Rick Scott has asked lawmakers to specifically address barrel racing, saying he does not believe the legislature intended to permit it. Her new measure also would not buy back four pari-mutuel permits but it would bar any new pari-mutuel licenses from being issued after July.

The Senate Regulated Industries Committee is slated to vote on her bill Monday afternoon, the day before the 2012 legislative session officially begins.

Anti-gambling forces rake in Bondi support

Thursday, December 8th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Count Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi among anti-gambling forces fighting a proposal to allow three casinos in the state.

Bondi will join a noon press conference hosted by “No Casinos” today, her office announced in a press release this morning.

Even without Bondi’s opposition, the “destination resorts” bill sponsored by Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff and Rep. Erik Fresen is facing an uphill battle.

The Senate Regulated Industries Committee wound up its second workshop on the proposal (SB 710) yesterday, logging nearly six hours of testimony in the two meetings.

Near the end of yesterday’s discussion, committee chairman Dennis Jones, who supports the plan conceptually, expressed frustration.

“It seems like more questions are arising every week that we don’t have answers to,” Jones, R-Seminole, said.

Senate Rules Chairman John Thrasher, whose committee has to sign off on the bill before it heads to the Senate floor, blasted the measure during yesterday’s meeting.

“I think this legislation is a major change in the culture and brand in the state of Florida and frankly I think it expands gambling to the point where I am concerned about it,” Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, said during yesterday’s meeting.

Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, insists that her bill allowing the three high-end casinos and creating a statewide gambling commission won’t grow gambling in the state but will enable the state to establish a “strategic vision” for gambling.

But she acknowledged she’s got her work cut out for her. Bogdanoff, whose district includes part of Palm Beach County, compared her goal to overhaul gambling in Florida to former Gov. Jeb Bush‘s education reforms.

“It was a holistic view and everybody bought into it,” she said. “I don’t have a popular governor advocating at that level. I’m just a lowly senator from Palm Beach and Broward County.”

Gov. Rick Scott has not said whether he supports the proposal, but has said he does not want the state to be dependent on taxes generated by the casinos.

Casino kingpin calls BS – during committee meeting – on gambling critics

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Colin Au, president of Malaysian-based gambling giant Genting America, made big promises to lawmakers during a Senate Regulated Industries workshop on Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff’s proposal designed to allow up to three casinos in South Florida.

Three casinos in Miami-Dade County could ring up $1.7 billion a year for the state’s cash-strapped coffers, Au said. The high-end resorts would also create 100,000 jobs in a state where the unemployment rate is hovering near the double-digits, Au pledged. Not just any jobs, either, the Malaysian native announced.

“They are good-paying jobs. They work in air-conditioned facilities. They wear uniforms,” Au stated.

Au’s stats raised a few eyebrows, but not as many as his frank dismissal of critics’ contention that the jobs would be snapped up by out-of-state workers already employed at casinos in Atlantic City or Las Vegas.

“That’s bullsh–, OK?” Au said, drawing gasps from the standing-room-only committee room.

Au’s use of the profanity is nearly unheard of in the staid halls of the Capitol, but elicited no rebuke from chairman Dennis Jones, R-Seminole, as other chairmen have done in similar circumstances.

And neither Au’s second use of the off-color term when he pooh-poohed allegations that his proposed 5,000-room gambling resort in Miami, where his company has already purchased property, would put other hotels and restaurants out of business.

“That’s bullsh– again,” the heavily-accented Au insisted. “It does not take people’s lunch. It creates lunch, dinner plus breakfast for everyone.”

After the meeting, Bogdanoff said Au oversold her proposal, possibly damaging its chances of passing. His use of the blue language may have been a cultural difference, Bogdanoff guessed.

“You can do that privately. We all kind of sometimes use language that’s inappropriate but I don’t do it, (a) in a public forum or (b) in a committee meeting,” Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, said. “I just want him to tone the rhetoric down.”

So long Lottery – hello Department of Gambling?

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011 by Dara Kam


Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff revealed a new wrinkle in her “strategic vision” plan for gambling – she wants to transform the Florida Lottery department into the “Florida Gaming Commission,” something up until now she thought couldn’t be done.

The Lottery, which brings in about $4 billion a year, is an already-existing executive agency which could be morphed into a statewide gambling commission, Bogdanoff said at a press conference this morning with the Florida Latin Builders Association.

The gambling commission would have the power to grant up to three casino licenses (“destination resorts” in legislative parlance) in South Florida.

Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, said the commission could also possibly rein in the Lottery, which she said is “taking money from our citizens and not really doing anything to benefit Florida.”

The money people spend on Lottery tickets would be spent elsewhere and make its way into the state’s general revenue fund anyway, Bogdanoff said.

Bogdanoff, most of whose district is in Palm Beach County, will introduce the latest twist in the casino proposal (SB 710, HB 479) at its first hearing tomorrow morning during a Senate Regulated Industries workshop.

The Hispanic builders are digging the “destination resorts” plan pushed by Bogdanoff and Rep. Erik Fresen, saying it’s just what the gasping construction industry needs.

Noelia Moreno, the organization’s past president, said that the state’s 20 percent unemployment rate in the construction industry is about twice that of the general population.

The legilsative duo’s proposal to build three high-end casinos in South Florida could create 40,000 contruction jobs and 100,000 permanent jobs, Moreno said.

“We need these jobs now. We needed them yesterday. But we definitely need them now,” Moreno said at a press conference joined by Bogdanoff, Fresen and other Latino builders.

Senate to workshop casinos bill next week

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011 by Dara Kam

The Senate Regulated Industries Committee will hold the first of two three-hour workshop on the destination resorts proposal on Wednesday, committee chairman Dennis Jones, R-Seminole, said.

Jones extended the committee’s usual two-hour meeting time to accomodate the dozens of lobbyists on both sides of the issue expected to speak out on the proposal (SB 710). Business and faith groups have lined up against the proposal while gambling operators from Las Vegas to Malaysia have lined up in support.

“There’s a lot of people that want to speak on this bill,” he said.

Jones said he’ll take 20 minutes of testimony each from those who wish to speak on the issue and allow out-of-towners to go first. He said he expects his committee to vote on the bill sometime before the second week of the 2012 legislative session that begins in early January. Expect to see plenty of amendments before the measure makes it to the floor, Jones predicted.

Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, is the sponsor of the proposal she says would allow up to three non-tribal casinos to open in Broward and Miami-Dade counties and create a statewide gambling commission. Jones said he thinks her bill is unconstitutional because it would create a monopoly in South Florida with impacts that would be felt in all 67 counties.

The state’s existing racinos – pari-mutuels in South Florida that also offer slot machine gambling – are objecting to the bill’s 10 percent tax rate for the “destination resorts.” The racinos currently pay 35 percent of their revenue in taxes.

Jones said he wants to explore “parity” in taxing and games during the workshops and isn’t convinced the proposed casinos would be getting a better deal under Bogdanoff’s bill.

Casinos would have to agree to invest at least $2 billion in the resorts and are likely to employ 5,000 workers and would be paying $75 million in local property and school taxes, Jones said. Meanwhile, the seven racinos in Broward and Miami-Dade only pay about $2 million in property taxes combined, he said.

“I think it’s a wash,” Jones said. “But that will be one of the things we’ll have to work out in the workshops to see how people feel.”

Religious groups rally against Florida brand-changing casino proposal

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011 by Dara Kam

A coalition of religious and anti-gambling groups are uniting to put pressure on lawmakers in the hopes of killing a proposal that would allow up to three Las Vegas-style casinos in South Florida.

The Florida Catholic Conference, the Florida Baptist Convention, Florida Family Action and Florida Casino Watch held a press conference Tuesday morning to declare war on the casino proposal, sponsored by Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, a Fort Lauderdale Republican whose district is dominated by Palm Beach County, and Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami.

Representatives of the religious groups objected to the “destination resorts” in part because, they said, gambling victimizes the poor and is accompanied by social costs such as addiction, prostitution, bankruptcy and suicide.

“This is the big Kahuna that’s been brought to the table to us. And we’ve shown up to say, ‘no thanks,’” said Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, a former head of the state Christian Coalition. He called the casino plan “the biggest brand change” in Florida.

Florida Family Action head John Stemberger, who also heads FFA’s parent group Florida Family Policy Council, named defeating the proposal his organization’s chief objective during the legislative session that ends early in March.

Stemberger plans to use the Internet to expose lawmakers’ votes on the issue with a “Wall of Fame” and “Wall of Shame” and is asking legislators to sign an anti-gambling pledge. Stemberger achieved success with a similar campaign in 2008 when he shepherded a ballot initiative onto the ballot and into the state constitution prohibiting same-sex marriage.

(more…)

Casino bills filed

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Rep. Erik Fresen today filed a suite of highly-anticipated gaming bills that would allow three high-end casinos in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

The 142-page plan(HB 487) creates a seven-member gaming commission and a new state agency – the Department of Gaming Control -that would be responsible for oversight of all gambling ventures in the state except the lottery. Under Fresen’s proposal, the gaming commission would choose who can open casinos in Florida, selecting up to three vendors who promise to bring jobs to the state and spend at least $2 billion, not including the price of the property, to develop and build the “destination resorts.” Bidders would pay $50 million to apply.

Fresen, R-Miami, and Senate sponsor Ellyn Bogdanoff told The Palm Beach Post yesterday that it’s time for lawmakers to step up to the plate and establish a gaming vision for the state instead of the hodge-podge approach gambling-leery lawmakers have taken for decades.

“This is about creating a strategic direction for gaming,” Bogdanoff, a Fort Lauderdale Republican whose district includes part of Palm Beach County, said in a meeting with The Post’s editorial board yesterday evening. “Nobody has taken hold of the gaming issue because nobody wants to touch it. We are an anti-gaming legislature that refuses to deal with this holistically.”

The push for the casinos has spurred the revival of the dormant No Casinos Inc., headed by Orlando PR consultant John Sowinski. Sowinski is joining forces with businesses, faith-based groups and law enforcement officials opposed to the casino proposition.

After the bill was filed, Sowinski issued a press release asking lawmakers to look into a federal investigation into Las Vegas Sands, which is pushing the casino proposal. The Wall Street Journal reported last week that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Justice Department in March opened an investigation involving the gambling giant’s Macau’s casinos.

“It’s time to ask the tough questions, not fast-track legislation to build the biggest casinos in the world here in Florida,” Sowinski said in a statement. “Legislators should learn more about this investigation before moving a bill forward. They should also learn more about the enormous social and economic costs that mega-casinos would add to Florida taxpayers’ burden.”

Florida political tweeters
Video: Politics stories
Categories
Archives