Bill Galvano

School safety measure in House’s hands

All eyes are now on the House, after a sweeping school safety measure squeaked out of the Senate on a 20-18 vote Monday evening.

But could a tweak that may have kept the bill from going down in the upper chamber result in its demise across the rotunda?

Sen. Rene Garcia, a Hialeah Republican, sponsored an amendment that would exclude individuals who “exclusively” provide classroom instruction from participating in the school marshal program, rebranded by the Senate on Monday as the “Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program.” The controversial program would allow specially trained teachers or other school personnel to bring guns to class.

With the clock ticking down until the session ends Friday, there’s no guarantee that the House, slated to take up the bill (SB 7026) tomorrow, will pass it as is, Senate leaders acknowledged.

“It’s been a very dynamic process. There were even amendments on third reading, which is unusual for a bill of this stature,” Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, told reporters late Monday evening.

“There’s some general consensus, but I wouldn’t be surprised if both the House and the Senate had some additional input into the process. But I think on some of the fundamental areas, there’s agreement,” he said.

The Senate plan also includes a provision that requires both school districts and sheriffs to sign off on the plan, while the House’s version would only require the blessing of the school boards.

Gov. Rick Scott has opposed arming teachers, and it’s unclear whether he would support the revised bill.

Sen. Bill Galvano, who’s negotiated with Speaker-Designate Jose Oliva and Scott on the proposal, said that the measure passed by the Senate Monday night “was not a deal with the House,” but was generated from “the discussion” during Saturday’s floor debate.

Garcia was a no vote, Galvano pointed out.

(Translation: If Garcia had joined the opposition on Monday, the bill would have died on a 19-19 tie.)



Scrambling for gambling

As talks between key lawmakers and the Seminoles heat up, the anti-gambling group behind a constitutional amendment going on this fall’s ballot is taking to the air waves to scold the Legislature for trying to beat voters to the punch.

Voters In Charge, the political committee that pushed the “Voter Control of Gambling Amendment,” is running a 30-second TV ad and a 60-second radio ad — in additional to digital and social media advertising — starting today, according to a release issued by the group this morning.

If approved, voters statewide would have to approve any expansion of gambling, something now largely controlled by the Legislature. A recent poll showed 76 percent support for the measure, which will appear as Amendment 3 on the November ballot and was largely bankrolled by a Disney company and the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

Anticipating passage of the proposal, legislators are scurrying to craft a new 20-year agreement with the Seminoles, prompting the attack from Voters in Charge.

“They’re trying desperately to expand gambling now, before voters have their say,” a female voiceover on the TV ad scolds.

Sen. Bill Galvano and House Speaker-designate Jose Oliva met with Seminole Gaming CEO Jim Allen, and the tribe’s lobbyist Will McKinley, yesterday. Galvano told Truth or Dara he expects the Seminoles to give the legislative leaders a draft compact this week.

“The reaction by gambling lobbyists and Tallahassee politicians shows exactly why we need Amendment 3,” Sowinski said in the release announcing the ads.


Doggone it: Regulators rile gambling competitors

Florida gambling regulators this week gave a Miami track permission to do away with dog races but to keep more lucrative slots and card games.

The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation allowed Magic City, in Miami, to ditch the dog races in exchange for operating jai alai matches.

The decision was rooted in a 1980 law that allows Miami-Dade and Broward pari-mutuels that have the lowest betting handle for two consecutive years to convert to summer jai alai permits. But if those pari-mutuels do not seek conversion, other facilities can seek the permits.

Owners of Mardi Gras, a rival dog track of nearby Magic City, sought to intervene in the case. But the state agency rejected those efforts in the declaratory statement issued Wednesday.

In an early-morning interview Friday, Dan Adkins — vice president of Hartman and Tyner, which owns Mardi Gras — told The News Service the agency’s decision wasn’t what lawmakers intended when they passed the law decades ago.

But Adkins said he wasn’t sure if he’ll appeal the decision.

“We probably won’t. I’m getting tired of playing by the rules. Everybody else gets away with breaking the rules, gets away with going around scamming the system. That’s what this is. So maybe I’m going to have to find my own way to game the system,” Adkins, repeatedly saying he did not blame lawyer John Lockwood, who represents West Flagler Associates, or his Magic City competitor for trying to push the envelope.

Even so, Adkins maintained, “this is not the way this regulated industry should operate, especially when people are gambling on it.”


Special session likely to include pot

Anticipating some red ink from Gov. Rick Scott, legislative leaders are preparing for a mid- to late-June special session that will almost certainly include medical marijuana.

All eyes are on Scott, who’s yet to receive the state’s annual spending plan. Once he does, the governor will have 15 days to use his line-item veto on the $83 billion budget.

But Scott is also under intense pressure to veto a controversial education measure, which carries a price tag of about $400 million. And, while he’s at it, some public school folks want Scott to slash the entire K-12 portion of the budget.

The special session also address higher education issues, some insiders predict. They’re advising folks not to make any plans during the week of June 19 (or possibly the following week).

Whatever else they do, lawmakers are practically guaranteed to also deal with implementation of the voter-approved constitutional amendment legalizing marijuana for patients with debilitating conditions.

“I support a special session to address medical cannabis, and I predict that we will have one,” Sen. Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican who took over negotiations with the house on the marijuana measure in the waning days of the session, told The News Service late Tuesday evening.

House and Senate leaders failed to reach agreement on rules to regulate the industry for doctors, patients and vendors during the regular session that ended earlier this month.

A key sticking point was how many retail outlets the state’s marijuana operators should be able to run. The Senate wanted to cap the number, while the House’s final offer — on the last day of the session — was 100 storefronts per vendor, which essentially killed any hopes for a deal.

But lawmakers have been under intense pressure to hold a special session to deal with the issue. If they don’t, Department of Health “bureaucrats” will be responsible for implementing the amendment, something critics say would be bad for patients and the industry.

Posted by Dara Kam