You’d think Joe Negron would have learned by now that when it comes to gambling and the Legislature, you can’t always get what you want.
Actually, you can’t even get what you need. But when it comes to what’s fair for voters, shouldn’t you fight like hell?
In a media availability after Thursday’s floor session, the Senate President and Stuart Republican was asked about the absence of opportunity for new slots and the ban on designated player games in the House’s bill touted by Speaker Richard Corcoran.
“Nothing has changed,” he said. “I think that we owe it to the hundreds of thousands of fellow citizens who live in the eight counties that have approved (slot machine) referendums, including St. Lucie County, which I represent … They decided they wanted additional slots … I think that needs to be given great weight.”
True, he’s said the same thing for over a year.
“So it’s hard for me to envision a gaming bill that would get to 21 votes in the Senate and at the same time ignore the clear direction and mandate of the voters,” he went on. (Mind you, we’re trying hard to hear where the pressure points are for compromise.)
“We look at the Senate bill as reflective of the majority of the priorities of senators and making sure that businesses that have been involved in gaming in Florida for, in some cases, generations, that those businesses should be treated fairly and equitably while we negotiate with the Seminole Tribe.”
How much does the proposed “Voter Control of Gambling” constitutional amendment, which will be on the November ballot, play into it, he was asked. It would require voter approval for any new or added gaming in the state.
“If that amendment passes, and that’s a big if, it would severely restrict the ability of the Legislature to make decisions on how we move forward in gaming,” Negron said. “It certainly gives a sense of timeliness to our discussions.
“… It remains to be seen if there is enough time to reach a decision on gaming. We’re going into week five. We’re all focused on the budget, as we should be. We’ll just have to see how it plays out.”
So we essentially come to the same divide as last year: A Senate President that believes in expanding slots to counties that want them, and a House Speaker who’s looking for “a contraction of gaming.”
And the clock ticks.
So what’s it going to be? A fair deal for the counties that voted to have slots, or another year of stasis on gaming? And after November, the door may well close on legislative intervention.
On Wednesday, Corcoran said he wanted his legacy to be gambling reform “so all the people who come after us don’t have to have this constant, perpetual fight over a massive expansion of gaming. I’d love to have that happen.”
When it comes to gambling and the will of the people: Mr. President, your legacy is calling.