December 19, 2014

Tallahassee Trend

2009 Fla. Legislative Preview

As legislators look to slash regulations to encourage growth, environmentalists worry about losing hard-won protections from pollution. Here's a look at what lawmakers hope to tackle.

Amy Keller | 2/1/2009

» Gambling Compact
In 2007, Gov. Charlie Crist negotiated a 25-year compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida to allow class III (Las Vegas-style) gaming, as permitted under federal gaming law, at seven of its Florida facilities. In return, Florida was slated to receive annual minimum payments of $100 million.


Seminole Tribe Chairman Mitchell Cypress awaits the signal to begin class III gambling at the tribe’s Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood after the tribe reached an agreement with the state that allows the machines. [Photo: AP/WideWorld]
Last summer, responding to a suit brought by former House Speaker Marco Rubio, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the governor did not have the authority to bind the state to a gaming compact that legalizes gaming that is illegal elsewhere in the state, thereby leaving it up to the Legislature to ratify a contract with the state.

As lawmakers and Crist begin work on another compact with the Seminoles, Florida racetrack owners are looking to get in on the action. The South Florida Gaming Coalition says the state could reap an estimated $500 million if legislators allow five tracks in Broward and Miami-Dade to operate blackjack tables and other Vegas-style games — and that the pari-mutuels need to be allowed to expand their gaming operations if they are to compete. Barry Richard, a Tallahassee attorney who represents the Seminoles, says his clients don’t want to put the pari-mutuels out of business but that the exclusivity is the only element of the compact that is advantageous to the tribe.

The House Select Committee on Seminole Indian Compact Review, chaired by Rep. Larry Cretul, is reviewing the issue and will produce a written report by opening day of the regular session with recommendations. Rep. Bill Galvano, vice chairman of the panel, will serve as a chief negotiator in the dealings.

» Retail Priorities
The Florida Retail Federation will be pushing lawmakers to restore several tax-free sales holidays to try to stimulate the economy. “When you have selected items that are tax free, it creates a buzz about those items, but it also creates shopping for items that are not tax free,” says Rick McAllister, the federation’s president and CEO.

Other key items on the retail agenda include:

» Greater transparency in healthcare

» Creation of a dedicated funding source for Florida courts

» Revision of the state’s workers’ compensation law

» Creation of a sustainable market for alternative fuels and energy

In the other chamber, Sen. Dennis Jones, chairman of the Committee on Regulated Industries, says the Legislature should exercise caution in approving a 25-year compact with the Seminoles. “You’re sitting here with 18 million people. In 25 years this will be an entirely different state. To give them exclusivity will be awful and could leave the state holding the bag.”

» User Fees
As fiscally strapped towns, cities and counties get creative in their search for new revenue, some business groups are crying foul. At least four counties and nine cities, for instance, have begun billing drivers and their vehicle insurers for police and fire responses to auto accidents, no matter how routine or minor those accidents are. The Florida Insurance Council, which opposes such fees, says Florida residents already pay for those services through their taxes. It will ask the Legislature to ban municipalities from charging them. The council says such fees could also cause auto insurance rates to rise.

Retailers in Broward County, meanwhile, were alarmed by a proposed county ordinance last year that would have required retailers to install and operate video surveillance systems in their parking lots. “We have been, over the last three to four years, very concerned about cities and counties transferring financial burdens from the budgets to users, and it is getting to the point now, because they too are getting unfunded mandates from the state level, that we feel the necessity to pre-empt local government from doing that,” says Rick McAllister, president and CEO of the Florida Retail Federation.

Tags: Politics & Law, Environment, Government/Politics & Law

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