Florida lawmakers will not return to Tallahassee this spring to deal with gaming issues.
The decision not to bring the Legislature back into session came even though “significant progress” had been made on key issues that had been left on the table in the regular session.
“Significant progress was made on a number of important gaming issues from the Regular Session, including the availability of slots approved by voters in referendum counties, reducing the applicable tax rate, decoupling and overall contraction of the gaming footprint in Florida,” said Sen. President Joe Negron, R-Stuart.
But Negron announced Wednesday afternoon that after weeks of negotiations between Senate President-designate Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, and Speaker-designate Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, a decision was made not to call legislators back into session.
“Ultimately, however, there were other factors that led President-designate Galvano and Speaker-designate Oliva to recommend that we not have a special session on gaming,” said Negron. “These factors include budget unpredictability, uncertainty as to the effect of a proposed constitutional amendment and potential challenges in limiting the scope of the call.”
The two chambers continued to talk even after Gov. Rick Scott announced last week an agreement with the Seminole Indian Tribe that guarantees the Tribe would continue making revenue-sharing payments from its casinos to the state through May of next year. Those payments amount to about $19.5 million a month. In exchange for those payments, the Seminoles receive exclusive rights to offer specific games at their casinos in Florida.
One of the main reasons that legislative leaders began negotiations was an amendment that will appear on the November ballot that would require voter approval of any future expansion of gambling in Florida. Polls have indicated voters will approve Amendment 3, in effect reducing the Legislature’s influence in future gaming issues.
The House and Senate had reportedly made substantial progress on issues such as expanding slot machines to some areas where voters had already approved them in a referendum and allowing designated player games to continue being offered in card rooms at pari-mutuel facilities.