Monday night Special (Session)
Lawmakers have anted up for next week’s Special Session, locking in their first bills for Monday’s reconvening.
Sen. Travis Hutson will be the Senate’s dealer anointed to carry that chamber’s nine bills. On the House side, six representatives are carrying six bills.
The nine measures would implement the Gaming Compact Gov. Ron DeSantis signed last month with the Seminole Tribe and related gambling proposals. That Compact is expected to rake in at least $2.5 billion for the state within five years and $6 billion through 2030. The Tribe will serve as a hub for sports betting and benefit from adding three facilities to its Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood.
Reps. Sam Garrison, Chris Latvala, Bobby Payne, Will Robinson, Bob Rommel and Josie Tomkow are carrying the House’s bills.
Current law allows the Tribe to offer slots, banked card games, raffles and drawings. The Compact would expand that to the authorization to craps, roulette, fantasy sports contests and sports betting.
The range of bills cover the Compact, a proposed Gaming Control Commission, existing games and new regulations to games like bingo and lucrative fantasy sports contests.
Some topics look like they’ve already been settled. Both the House and Senate have agreed to allow card rooms and slot machines to operate 24/7. Casinos could also serve complimentary and discounted drinks around slot machines.
But just like in poker, both chambers must bet equally. The House didn’t call the Senate’s bet on bingo regulations, meaning an agreement there looks unlikely.
Hutson also expects pushback on the fantasy sports section. That’s on top of the handful of lawmakers that steadfastly oppose any and all gaming expansion.
On Monday, the flop, the House will hold an initial floor session before three subcommittees consider the six bills in that chamber. Similarly, the Senate will have its initial sitting before the Appropriations Committee powers through all nine bills.
On Tuesday, the Senate will hold another floor Session. Soon after, the newly established House Select Committee on Gaming and the Rules Committee will give the final OKs to the House bills.
Finally, with the river on Wednesday, the House and Senate will both hold floor sessions. Both chambers have earmarked Thursday and Friday for floor sessions if additional rounds of betting become necessary.
Unlike a game of poker, however, most players look to win something out of the Special Session.
Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Peter Schorsch, Drew Wilson, Renzo Downey, Jason Delgado, Haley Brown and the staff of Florida Politics.
The “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:
Lawmakers file gaming bills for Special Session — The House and Senate on Friday unveiled their gaming bills for the Special Session beginning Monday. Hutson filed nine bills while House members filed a combined six bills. There are a handful of key takeaways. First, card rooms and slot machines could operate 24/7. Second, casinos could serve complimentary drinks at slot machines. The House forwent bingo bills, meaning passing that could be a heavy lift even if the Senate passes it. Finally, expect resistance to fantasy sports betting, a lucrative option lawmakers want to move from a legal gray area into a regulated sphere.
DeSantis expands school choice options — On Tuesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill (HB 7045) to overhaul the state’s school voucher system dramatically. Under the proposal, a family of four earning less than $100,000 a year would be eligible for enrollment, allowing them to send their children to any school of their choice. “This is public money, scholarship money, not going to any particular institution,” DeSantis said. And to assuage Democrats’ concerns that school vouchers are state funding for private schools: “It’s going to the parents, and the parents are now in power.” The bill also merges some scholarship programs to make way for the new framework.
Pipeline cyberattack leads to gas hoarding — Despite Florida having ample access to gas amid a cyberattack that shut down gas lines from Texas to New Jersey, gas hoarding struck across Florida this week. Because Florida mostly gets its gas from tanker ships, Floridians unnecessarily created a gas shortage. DeSantis declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard to make it easier for trucks carrying fuel to enter the state. State officials like Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and Attorney General Ashley Moody urged Floridians not to hoard gas. DeSantis joined them too but called on the federal government to do more to blunt the attack.
Florida State begins new president search — FSU started its new presidential search in earnest this week, and the school’s Presidential Search Advisory Committee began its first round of interviews. The university is working through a list of nine candidates, a mix of politically connected local candidates and academics from universities nationwide. Among them is Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran. However, the Education Commissioner also serves as a member of the state university system’s Board of Governors, leading to a possible conflict of interest when the time comes for the BOG to approve the FSU Board of Trustees’ selection. Although six interviewees preceded him on Friday, Corcoran will be the first interviewed Saturday morning.
DeSantis signs sea level rise bills — The Governor signed a pair of bills (SB 1954 & SB 2514) Wednesday to mitigate the impact of climate change and sea-level rise. The new laws will create the Resilient Florida Grant Program, authorizing the Department of Environmental Protection to provide grants to local governments to combat rising sea levels. Additionally, it clears the way for $100 million in annual allocations to stock the trust fund to pay out those grants. That’s part of the Legislature and DeSantis’ deal to split dollars initially meant for affordable housing programs into affordable housing and environmental programs.