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Lawyers to face off in hearing over ‘pre-reveal’ games

Lawyers for the Seminole Tribe of Florida and companies behind what are known as “pre-reveal” games—a name they apparently disdain—will appear Monday afternoon in a Tallahassee courtroom.

Circuit Judge John Cooper agreed to hear argument on why he should reconsider his previous ruling that the stand-alone consoles aren’t illegal slot machines. The devices in question use a specific software known as “Version 67.”

Source: Twitter

The machines—offered mostly at bars and taverns—look and play like a slot machine, Cooper had reasoned, but don’t fit the legal definition of gambling because the player always knows whether he or she is a winner or loser.

The Tribe has countered that Cooper’s decision “upends the Compact,” the 2010 agreement between the Tribe and the state for exclusive rights to offer certain gambling in return for a cut of the revenue.

The Tribe believes the machines are slots, which violates its exclusivity. That could cost the state “multi-billions of dollars” by entitling the Tribe to stop paying the state a cut of its gambling revenue.

Barry Richard, the Tribe’s outside attorney, has argued Cooper misunderstood the game play: “The player is not wagering for the already revealed outcome, but rather on the next outcome, which is unknown.”

Gator Coin II and Blue Sky Games, the concerns behind pre-reveal, disagree. They have complained in court filings that the state continues to go after the games through its Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco (ABT).

“Customers fear legal repercussions (and) most have decided not to offer the game, fearing (the department’s) wrath,” their filing said, referring to ABT’s “confusing and heavy-handed tactics.” They include threats of criminal prosecution and loss of liquor licenses, according to the motion.

But the state’s filing notes that the machines “operate upon the insertion of money and award prizes through the element of chance.”

A Twitter account called @RealBlueSkyGame has photos of banners advertising the devices as the “only Florida court approved no chance game,” adding that they offer a “cash payout.”

“We don’t violate anything and they know it,” says one tweet. “We are winning!!! They are wrong, so sad.”

Another tweet from that account responded to a FloridaPolitics.com post last week, saying, “They are not pre reveal anything. They are no chance games. Get the terminology correct.”

Matt Gaetz to honor local hero who saved toddler in automobile crash

Pellicano with Kaysin’s family (Photo via MiltonLocal.com)

North Florida Republican Matt Gaetz will honor a local sailor who saved the life of a child involved in an automobile accident.

Gaetz, who represents Florida’s 1st Congressional District, will give special recognition in a ceremony Monday for Petty Officer First Class Joseph Pellicano of Pace, a city in Santa Rosa County.

On Jan. 16, Pellicano was on his way to work at the Naval Air Station Whiting Field near Milton, when he passed a car accident and noticed a woman, Rebekah Willis, bloodied from the crash.

Before first responders could arrive, Pellicano stopped and rendered aid to the woman, discovering her child, 17-month-old Kaysin Willis, was also bloodied and showed no vital signs. Pellicano immediately administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation and successfully revived the child.

According to MiltonLocal.com, the child was transported to Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital and admitted to the infant/toddler intensive care; he was diagnosed with a fractured leg, internal bleeding and severe brain swelling from a traumatic brain injury.

The youth was placed into an induced coma to produce necessary healing.

Since then, the child has made a full recovery.

Gaetz plans to recognize Pellicano for “courageous and noble actions” during a ceremony at 3 p.m. in the board chambers of Ernie Lee Magaha Government Building at 221 Palafox Place in Pensacola.

Immediately before the ceremony, Gaetz and Escambia County commissioners will hold a special board meeting on the OLFX land exchange.

In 2015, Escambia County entered into a land exchange agreement with the United States Navy Department, with the county agreeing to construct a new outlying land field in Santa Rosa County, in exchange for an existing OLF in the county, which would then be developed into a commerce park to create new jobs.


Epilogue: Randy Fine explains to colleagues why he dropped out of Speaker’s race

Rep. Randy Fine has officially dropped out of the Speaker’s race, telling his colleagues he would rather be a “member of a unified team than the leader of a fractured one.”

In a lengthy email to his classmates Friday night, the Brevard County Republican explained why initially got into the Speaker’s race and why — with just two weeks until the June 30 vote — he was dropping that bid.

“A large part of the reason I decided to run is that in my 20+ year business career, I’ve always operated inclusive, collaborative, empowered teams, and it was something I wanted to see in the Florida House. I didn’t want to be the ruler, and I didn’t want to be ruled. I spent a lot of time running under the old rules, and in fact, spent significant amounts of my own money helping many of you, and raised $100,000 of additional money that went to your campaigns directly. Make no mistake – I wanted to be Speaker, but even more importantly, if I was going to spend the next eight years doing this, I wanted to be part of a great team,” he wrote in email, obtained by FloridaPolitics.com.

“But my thought process started to change a few months ago, and in fact, I know the actual date – April 12th. On that day, just halfway into our first session, I saw what I thought was great camaraderie and class spirit rent by an effort that ended up dividing the class in two. Our group has not been the same since, and we all know it. We can’t even seem to keep our emails to ourselves.”

The race, which had been largely been happening behind the scenes, shot into the limelight in April, after state Rep. Alex Miller sent a text message to Rep. Joe Gruters that essential said the race was narrowing to a choice between Rep. Ralph Massullo and Rep. James Grant.

Gruters altered Rep. Paul Renner, who then then called a meeting, which was attended by about 15 members of the 27-member freshman GOP class, to address his colleagues about his interest in the Speaker’s race. Supporters of Renner believed Miller’s text might have violated new GOP rules, which prohibit soliciting support for a leadership contender.

Grant and Renner are considered the leading contenders for the Speaker’s race. Reps. Byron Donalds and Erin Grall have also announced their candidacy.

Fine said as the June 30 vote approaches, he became “increasingly concerned that the absence of clear rules to establish a winner that all of us could buy into — which I would note that we still do not have — we would become a fractured class, with a protracted Speaker’s Race, where no one, at least for some time, could get a majority.”

“I’m not interested in being part of that,” he wrote. “I’d rather be a member of a unified team than the leader of a fractured one.”

Fine said there were personal considerations to his decision as well. He said he misses his family, and the time away has “taken a real toll on our family.”

“My oldest is nine, but will be 16 at the end of our eight years. How much of those precious years do I want to miss? Those of you who know me know that my life revolves around the twin suns (or sons) of Jacob and David,” he wrote. “And I’m definitely not interested in spending time away from them to participate in a class fratricide.”

Fine also wrote that the family’s home was destroyed in October by Hurricane Matthew and the ensuing weather. While they had hoped it could be repaired quickly, Fine said it appears the house will need to be torn down, redesigned and entirely rebuilt.

“I believe God has a plan for each of us, and to a large degree, I believe His decision to put us through this dislocation was a message,” he wrote. “So I have decided to step away from it. I’m not going to call for us not to have a secret ballot, or attempt to call the question, or anything of the kind. I also believe that if it is over – if we want any shot of returning to an April 11th world – we should pull together. We should put Team over self.”

Fine did not disclose in his email who he planned to support in the Speaker’s race, saying he didn’t “want there to be any hint that I’m trying to influence anyone else to do anything they think is best.” On Friday, FloridaPolitics.com reported Fine is likely to support Renner for Speaker.

“I know there is a lot to process, but as we look to get together in a few weeks, I hope it can be in the spirit of unification,” wrote Fine.

Phil Levine laying low in gubernatorial race

As Gwen Graham, Andrew Gillum and Chris King talked issues to a packed ballroom in their first Democratic gubernatorial forum Saturday at the Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood, Phil Levine was nowhere to be seen.

The Miami Beach Mayor isn’t officially running for anything (right now), so he’s on a different wavelength than his would-be Democratic competitors.

“I’m still thinking, I’m still exploring,” he said Saturday night, right before the commencement of official festivities at the FDP’s Leadership Blue Gala.

Of course, the question might be how well Levine might be received in a Democratic forum, considering he talked openly in Tampa last month of running as an independent.

On Saturday, he was trotting out what has become his adopted title — Radical Centrist.

“We’ll see where my product sells best,” is all he would say when asked if he was serious about going the indie route.

So far, Levine’s not making any commitments, saying only: “I should have some interesting news in the fall.”

The 55-year-old mayor was accompanied by his date, Caro Muriano. The two recently engaged, and are expecting a child.


Email insights: For Andrew Gillum, Father’s Day (and being Governor) is all about children

For Father’s Day, Andrew Gillum believes a Florida Governor’s primary focus should be children.

In an email to supporters, the Democratic mayor of Tallahassee and father of three (including a one-month-old newborn) talks of the Maasai Tribe of East Africa, who “greet each other a little differently” than we do in America.

Traditional greeting for the Maasai is not about the self, but: “How are the children?”

Their ideal answer? The children are “doing well.”

“And I think that’s what we should be striving for here in Florida,” Gillum writes. “All of us want to give our kids better opportunities to grow and thrive in our communities.

As a father to “three incredible children,” Gillum is grateful that he and his wife R. Jai are “able to provide them with opportunities that I never dreamed” while growing up.

“I’m thankful that when I’m asked how my children are doing,” he says, “I can honestly say they’re doing well.”

But in Florida, Gillum says it is not always the case.

“If we were to look ourselves in the mirror today,” he writes, “we would have to admit that, as a whole, the children of Florida are not well.”

From persistent poverty, debt, unaffordable health care and a state that has “shifted resources from our public schools to private corporations,” children – and families – are far from “doing well,” Gillum says.

As Governor, Gillum vows to reinvest in public schools, affordable health care, and work to have Florida businesses offer workers a living wage.

“My goal is to be able to honestly answer that question – ‘How are the children?’ – with ‘They are doing well.’ – in every county and every corner of this state,” he says.

But running for Governor takes a little more than just being a good dad (while it doesn’t hurt).

With that, what Gillum really wants for Father’s Day is your support (and donations) to help him get there.

Email insights: Gwen Graham shares her dad’s lessons of inspiration, political courage

Father’s Day is a time where kids (of all ages) honor the leading man in their lives; devoted dads who provide inspiration and love.

Gwen Graham knows a thing or two about inspirational fathers; her dad is former Governor and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham – a North Florida political legend beloved by many.

For Gwen, Bob Graham – pulling double duty as a father and Florida’s Governor – was a constant lesson in courage and encouragement.

“The example he set for me, as his daughter, about problem-solving and cooperation in politics are lessons I carry with me to this day,” Gwen writes. “Perhaps the most important thing I learned from him was to have courage in the face of politics.”

Graham – who is seeking her father’s old job as Florida Governor – says the state could use more “Bob Graham-style governing” as he was a progressive champion “before it was popular.”

“He stood up for our progressive values: like advancing women’s rights, protecting our environment, and he had the courage to oppose the war in Iraq,” she writes. “Dad always did what was right for Florida, regardless of the politics.”

Gwen also knows the value of sticking to your political guns: “I was attacked by lobbyists and special interests when I supported President Obama’s Clean Power Plan to shut down and clean up coal-fired power plants.”

Facing a potentially grueling statewide campaign, having the courage of conviction – and a supportive father who knows the ropes – is undoubtedly valuable.

And as she seeks her own legacy as a prospective governor, having a daughter such as Gwen, Bob Graham is indeed blessed this Father’s Day.

Florida Democrats raise more than $1 million from weekend gala as they eye 2018 opportunities

The Florida Democratic Party is wrapping up a successful weekend after having hosted their annual Leadership Blue Gala at the Westin Diplomat.

This year’s Leadership Blue Gala raised over $1 million dollars with over 1300 attendees.

“I am thrilled to announce that the Florida Democratic Party raised over $1 million at our annual Leadership Blue Gala. 1300 people attended to join Democrats from across the state as we continued our mission to turn Florida blue. Vice President Biden capped off a successful weekend with an unprecedented program and wildly successful fundraising.” said FDP Chair Stephen Bittel.

Florida Democrats hosted dozens of speakers, meetings and forums this weekend before the Saturday evening gala headlined by Senator Bill Nelson and Vice President Joe Biden.


At Florida Democrats Leadership Gala, Joe Biden argues progressives can still win working class vote

In the immediate aftermath of Hillary Clinton‘s stunning Electoral College loss to Donald Trump last November, Democrats took to writing think pieces and conducting heated arguments about how they lost working-class white voters.

Questions like: Was it too much of “identity politics”? Were they too elitist?

Joe Biden has heard and read about those discussions, and he’s sick of them.

“This phony debate going on in the Democratic Party, the Hobbesian choice that we’re given — we either become less progressive, and focus on working folks, or forget about working folk and become more progressive,” he said while giving the keynote speech to more than 1,200 Democrats at the party’s Leadership Blue Gala at the Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood.

“There is no need to choose, they are not inconsistent,” he said to a cheering crowd.

That’s easy for Biden to say. Biden’s unique political persona as a longtime member of the U.S. Senate representing Delaware has been one of representing the working class whites that Clinton lost to Trump last fall.

Biden himself thought hard about running for president, but with no clear daylight and so much of the Democratic Party establishment supporting Clinton (including President Barack Obama), he opted to stand down, but made the case on Saturday that the party could win back those voters, with an obvious inference being that he could be that candidate to do so in 2020.

Citing congressional ratings that showed him to be among the top ten liberal senators in the nation in his 36-year career, Biden said he has been a progressive and someone who could capture the working class vote, so Democrats should know that they could get those votes as well.

“These folks we’re talking about who left us — they voted for a black man named Barack Obama!” 

In fact, exit polls show that approximately 12 percent of voters who supported Obama turned around and chose Trump in 2012.

The former Vice President talked about the working class voters that the Democratic lost in the crucial Rust Belt states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. He said it was things like digitalization and automation that are putting people out of work, in what he called “this fourth industrial revolution” which is causing real anxiety and fear among many Americans.

“They’re worried that they won’t be able to keep up,” he said. “So we saw of playing to their fears, their lesser angels, their basic instincts, rather than their better angels can still have a powerful impact as a political tool.”

He then dug deep into what he said was the “hopelessness” of some of these Americans, mentioning the statistic that white men aged 45-54 who are dying at a quicker rate than any other demographic right now.

“Highest rate of drug abuse. Not the ‘hood. There,” he barked.

And Biden talked about how that anxiety can play out by lashing out at “the others,” such as undocumented immigrants, Muslims and the transgendered. “Anyone not like you can become the scapegoat.”

It was a compelling speech, marred only by a detour into how cutting tax loopholes could free up money to pay for the community college being the only soft spots in the 51-minute address.

He also chastised Democrats for failing to think big, going for an incremental change instead.

“What the hell is happening?!” he asked. “We build new things by breaking old things.”

“No, no. I’m being deadly earnest,” he followed up, one of half-dozen times he would point out his previous comment, making sure everyone knew he wasn’t joking.

While his intensity came close to yelling at the audience at points, a few times he dropped down to a whisper, where the audience had to literally lean in to hear him, such as when he described a conversation with his father, who once told him: “Joey, I don’t expect government to be able to solve our problems, but I do expect them to understand them. Just understand them.”

Remaining sotto voce, Biden admitted: “That slice of people that Barack and I had, Democrats have always had, that don’t think we understand them anymore. It’s not a lot, but it was the difference in the election.”

The former VP also asked for more civility in our politics, without mentioning the current president’s name. “We have to treat the opposition with more dignity,” he said, then boasted that there wasn’t a single Republican on Capitol Hill who doesn’t trust him or won’t talk to him.

The 74-year-old Biden recently launched “American Possibilities PAC,” a political-action committee that will keep him engaged to help other Democrats, but immediately sparked more discussion about a possible 2020 run, when he would be 77.

Then again, Donald Trump is already the oldest president in our history, having turned 71 last week.

Though there will be plenty of other Democrats in the mix, two of the leading lights — Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — will also be in their 70s in three years. Sanders would be 78; Warren would be 71.

Alex Sink: Anger over HB 7069 could be Dems winning issue in 2018

Could expansion of state spending for charter school operators — at the expense of public schools — fuel a surge of support for Florida Democrats at the polls in 2018?

That’s what Alex Sink thinks could happen. At least she hopes it might.

The former CFO and 2010 gubernatorial candidate is angry about the passage of HB 7069, the massive education bill that includes $140 million for the “Schools of Hope” program, which would bring charter school operators with proven success rates in low-performing schools to communities where the traditional schools have earned consecutive state grades of D or F.

“Do we care about public education in this state or not?” she asks in her inimitable drawl. “Ninety percent of our kids go to public school, so 90 percent of our money plus should be supporting public schools,” she said Saturday while waiting in line for the first Democratic gubernatorial debate of the year at the Diplomat Resort Hotel.

“If we’re starving the system, we’re going to get more ‘failure factories,’ not less,” she says, using the term coined originally by the Tampa Bay Times in their award-winning 2015 series about failing schools in Pinellas County.

Just about every Florida Democrat considers the phrase “failure factories” an epithet.

And Sink disagrees with the notion that not enough of the public is upset about what Democrats portray as a GOP-led assault on the public school system.

“When you get sick, and you get into the ambulance, and the EMT people come to take you to the hospital, don’t  you want them to be well-educated, smart people? Hell yes!”

Tampa House Democrat Sean Shaw feels the same way.

“I don’t want to say we’ve got to exploit it, but we’ve gotta talk about it,” he says about HB 7069. “And we’ve got talk about what that bill does to public education in Florida, and it’s awful. I mean we’re dismantling public education day by day, and we can’t allow that to keep happening.”

Democrats talk about the intensity of their voters following last November’s election. Shaw hopes it persuades some people in Hillsborough County to get off the sidelines and into the arena.

“This kind of excitement is what causes a teacher to say, you know, I’m going to run for office, because I hate what they’re doing to public education,” Shaw says. “Or an environmental sciences professor, I hate what they’re doing to the environment, I’m going to run for office.”

Florida Democratic Gala draws big stage, love fest for gubernatorial hopefuls

With another fourteen months to go before Florida Democrats choose their gubernatorial nominee, the most talked-about potential candidate wasn’t at the Leadership Blue Gala, one of the Party’s biggest events.

And he won’t decide if he’ll even run until (maybe) next year.

Nevertheless, Saturday afternoon’s forum in Hollywood — between Gwen Graham, Andrew Gillum and Chris King — was the biggest stage this year for grassroots Democrats to evaluate who might best be the one to end the 20-year exile from the governor’s mansion.

The FDP’s Leadership Blue Gala, taking place at the Diplomat Resort in Hollywood, was a “forum,” not a debate, emphasized Progressive Caucus Chair Susan Smith.

However, it became a veritable love fest (literally) between the three candidates.

“I love you,” Graham told Gillum at one point, before looking at King and saying that while she doesn’t know him as well, she loved him as well.

Graham enters the race as the candidate with the best name recognition; throughout the nearly 90-minute event, she separated herself as the public-education candidate.

“The education industry is rigged against our students,” Graham said. “After almost 20 years of Republican rule and under Rick Scott, Tallahassee has sold out our schools to the highest bidder. As governor, I will end high-stakes testing, end degrading school grades and end the lottery shell game. We’ll finally pay teachers what they deserve and make sure every student has an opportunity at success, no matter where they come from or where they live,” Graham said after the forum.

Gillum has been the most electric candidate on the circuit. A dynamic public speaker with a compelling personal story, the 37-year-old Tallahassee Mayor is staking himself out as the progressive choice.

“Can a progressive, whose values reflect in my opinion the majority of us win?” Gillum asked the audience. “In my opinion, it’s the only way we win, is by bringing those folks out to the ballot by telling them that we stand for them, too.”

King proved most interesting on Saturday, perhaps because it was his biggest stage yet for his nascent campaign.

“In my opinion,” he said, “I have double the burden to try to prove that I not only belong here, but that I can earn your trust as your next governor.” King then acknowledged he doesn’t have many long-standing relationships with political officials.

As the creator of the Elevation Financial Group, King developed a consortium of companies specializing in real estate investment, property management and property renovation. He talks relentlessly about how the state needs more affordable housing, chastising Republicans in Tallahassee for raiding the state’s affordable housing trust fund. “To

“To me, that is an attack on working families, it’s an attack on teachers, it’s an attack on law enforcement,” he said. “That is something the day that I’m elected governor.”

Gilliam spoke most passionately about the less fortunate: “We can’t focus our education system and improving the outcomes of our kids if the only jobs we’re creating in this state are low-wage jobs.”

“I’m for a higher minimum wage, I’m for the ‘Fight for $15,'” he continued, adding what the people really want is a working for a wage with dignity.

At one point, moderator Keith Fitzgerald asked the candidates what they felt is the biggest challenge facing Florida, the country and the world.

In her response, Graham name-checked the president, getting one of the night’s biggest cheers.

“The biggest challenge we have facing the United States without question is Donald Trump,” and that he was the biggest challenge facing the entire world, as well.

None of the candidates differed on core Democratic principles if elected governor, such as calling for the restoration of voting rights for ex-felons, banning fracking and expanding Medicaid, but that may not be an option depending on what happens with the American Health Care Act in Washington D.C.

One interesting development occurred during the last question of the afternoon: Do the candidates support an open primary voting system, which would allow Republicans to vote in Democratic Party primaries and vice versa?

Party traditionalists frown on such a tactic, but Gillum and King enthusiastically embraced the idea.

Graham said she preferred a “Jungle Primary,” an election where candidates for the same elected office, regardless of respective political party, run against each other at once, instead of being segregated by political party.

Absent from Saturday’s was attorney and entrepreneur John Morgan, who has said he won’t make a decision about running for governor until 2018.


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