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Internet café stand-off: Senate committee passes regulation, House and Scott want shut-down

Thursday, January 19th, 2012 by Dara Kam

An Internet café showdown is shaping up after a Senate committee overwhelmingly approved a measure that would regulate the “casinos-on-corner” shortly before the sponsor of a proposal that would shut them down withdrew his bill from consideration.

The Senate Regulated Industries Committee signed off on the regulation of the cafés (SB 380) after hearing from proponents who said the facilities provide up to 13,000 jobs and are a place for seniors to socialize.

“We have never had one, eensy-teensy, bit of crime,” said Julie Slattery, who owns two Internet cafés in Melbourne.

“This is a business. It’s a real business. It’s a form of entertainment,” Slattery said. She asked the committee to regulate rather than shut the locales to “get rid of whatever it is you’re afraid of.”

But prosecutors and the Florida Sheriffs’ Association objected that the cafés are a venue for crimes and illegal gambling and need to be shuttered.

Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, the bill’s sponsor, rejected those arguments, noting that prosecutions have not resulted in a single conviction.

“I guess there’s a shortage of real crime out there so there’s a need to create some more so you can go prosecute it,” Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, said, adding that traffic problems and robberies often take place at convenience stores.

“Should the next bill ban convenience stores, too?” he said.

After passing the regulatory measure by an 8-1 vote, the committee then took up a bill (SB 428) that would outlaw the facilities. That proposal is similar to one passed by a House committee earlier this week and mirrors the criminalization Gov. Rick Scott yesterday said he’d like lawmakers to impose.

But before the committee could vote on his bill, Sen. Steve Oelrich asked the committee to temporarily put it aside, fending off the panel possibly killing the measure. That would have put an end to the possibility of outlawing the cafés for the rest of the session.

(more…)

Friendly Florida frog fixing to get official?

Friday, April 29th, 2011 by Dara Kam

After listening to its deep-throated croak, the Florida Senate unanimously moved to make the barking tree frog the state’s official amphibian.

The diminutive critter can be found throughout Florida except in the Keys and parts of the Everglades and was the featured centerfold in the “popular book Florida’s Fabulous Reptiles and Amphibians,” the bill (SB 502) sponsor Steve Oelrich said in his pitch.

Listen to the barking tree frog.
It’s also attractive and “relatively easy to hold,” Oelrich, R-Cross City, explained.

“Whereas many toads will try to jump out of your hand when you try to hold them, the barking tree frog is a very friendly frog” and wart-free, he said.

But that wasn’t enough for Sen. Gwen Margolis, a former Senate president.

“I just wondered if I kissed him if he would turn into a prince,” Margolis, D-Miami, asked.

“I’ll have to do. Meet me in the bubble,” Oelrich joked.

The House has not yet voted on its companion bill.

Barking tree frog new state symbol?

Thursday, March 17th, 2011 by Dara Kam

With three dozen official state symbols – including a rodeo, renaissance festival and opera program – does Florida need another?

Sen. Steve Oelrich, R-Cross Creek, thinks so.

He’s sponsored a bill (SB 502) that would designate the barking tree frog the official state amphibian.

If lawmakers approve the move, the tiny critter – often found clinging to windowpanes and door frames – would join the official state pie (key lime), state gem (moonstone), state soil (myakka fine sand) and state animal (Florida panther).

The Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee will vote on the proposal this afternoon.

Should the barking tree frog be Florida's official state amphibian?

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