Mike La Rosa – Florida Politics

Henry Parrish has second big fundraising month in HD 51 race

The House District 51 open seat race in Brevard County is heating up as Cocoa Mayor Henry Parrish posted his second big month of fundraising since entering the race in February.

Parrish, a Republican, raised $12,012 in March, following up the $21,100 brought in during his debut month; he said it’s reflecting the revival the city of Cocoa is experiencing.

“I’m just getting started. I’m very lucky; I have a lot of supporters,” Parrish said.

With Parrish’s entry, the campaign of Republican Tyler Sirois is finding new energy, too. The $11,140 raised in March is his biggest monthly haul his campaign has brought in since its debut a year ago. Sirois now has raised about $71,000 and has about $55,000 in the bank, while Parrish’s campaign headed into April with about $32,500.

They’re striving to succeed term-limited Republican state Rep. Tom Goodson of Rockledge in the north coast Brevard County district.

Also in that contest, Republican Jeffrey Ramsey of Merritt Island had no campaign finance activity in March, and had raised about $15,000, with about $7,800 in the bank; Republican Thomas O’Neill of Rockledge had no campaign finance activity in March, and has raised $2,290, and had about $800 in the bank; Democrat Michael Blake of Cocoa raised $666 in March, giving him $766 total raised, and about $80 in the bank; and newcomer independent Shain Allen Honkonen has not yet filed any reports.

Parrish’s and Sirois’ March campaign contribution totals were among the largest among Florida House of Representatives’ campaigns in the Central Florida area, not including that of House District 47 Democrat Anna Eskamani of Orlando, who has made a habit of topping House in campaign contributions in the region in most months. Earlier this week, her campaign reported bringing in another $19,234 for March, pushing her total contributions over $203,000 and her cash holdings to $152,000.

Also in the HD 47 race, Republican Mikaela Nix of Orlando raised $8,037 and lent her campaign $2,500. That brings her total haul to about $31,500, leaving her with just under $29,000 in the bank by the start of April. Stockton Reeves of Winter Park brought in $2,950 and lent his campaign another $4,700. That gives him $118,000 raised, including $94,000 he put in, and about $105,000 left in the bank going into April.

HD 47 is likely to be an open seat in north-central Orange County as Republican state Rep. Mike Miller of Winter Park is running for Congress.

Republican David Smith of Winter Springs again led all Seminole County house candidates as he reported raising $11,494 in March for his run in House District 28 in northeast Seminole. Including $85,000 he has put into his own campaign, Smith has gathered about $189,000 and has about $149,000 left. Democrat Lee Mangold of Casselberry raised just $941 in March. With $10,000 he lent his campaign, he has raised $25,400 and ended March with about $13,200 left.

They’re eying for the seat being vacated by Republican state Rep. Jason Brodeur of Sanford.

In another race heating up, Republican state Rep. Bobby Olszewski reported raising $6,000 in March, giving him $43,300 raised and about $35,500 in the bank. Democrat Eddy Dominguez of Orlando reported raising only $1,000, but he also reported receiving $11,000 in in-kind contributions, including staff time. He has reported more than $20,000 in such in-kind support in two months, though his campaign has raised only $3,525 overall, and finished March with only about $1,500 in the bank. Democrat Matthew Matin of Winter Garden reported raising $2,000 in donations. With $1,070 loaned to his campaign, Matin raised $12,200 and had about $9,600 left.

That southwest Orange County race is likely to change now with the entry this month of former state Sen. Geraldine Thompson of Orlando. She has not filed any campaign finance reports.

In three other Florida House of Representatives contests in Central Florida, Democratic challengers sent significant fundraising challenges toward their Republican incumbent opponents, who had been barred from fundraising during the first 11 days of the month due to the Legislative Session.

In the central Brevard County House District 52 race, Democrat Ann Fuller of Melbourne reported raising $8,157, her second $8,000 month since she entered the race in early February against Republican state Rep. Thad Altman of Indialantic. Fuller now has raised $16,677 and ended March with $15,582 in the bank, while Altman did not raise any money in March, and finished the month with a total raised of $25,050, and only $18,803 in the bank.

In the House District 30 race, covering south-central Seminole County and parts of north-central Orange County, Democratic Maitland City Commissioner Joy Goff-Marcil reported raising $7,340. In less than two months she has raised $14,890 and entered April with about $11,560 left. Republican state Rep. Bob Cortes raised $5,760 in March. Yet Cortes already had a comfortably-sizable campaign fund, and now has raised $94,675, with about $77,440 left in the bank. Democrat Clark Anderson of Winter Park reported raising $1,275. With the $10,000 he had previously lent his campaign, he finished March with $12,525 raised and $11,666 in the bank.

In east and south Osceola County’s House District 42, Democrat Barbara Cady of Kissimmee reported raising $5,380 in March. That gives her $26,754 so far, and $16,831 left heading into April. Republican state Rep. Mike La Rosa of St. Cloud raised just $60 in March, though, like Cortes, he already had a hefty campaign fund. He has raised $112,467 overall and entered April with $61,282 in the bank.

In four other contested house races in Central Florida, Democratic challengers raised modest or small amounts of campaign money for campaign fund totals still under $10,000, while House District 29 Republican State Rep. Scott Plakon of Altamonte Springs; Republican House District 31 state Rep. Jennifer Sullivan of Mount Dora; Republican House District 50 state Rep. Rene Plasencia of Orlando; and Republican House District 53 state Rep. Randy Fine of Palm Bay also raised little money in March, most of them held comfortably-large campaign fund balances.

Raising little money in March were unopposed Democratic state Reps. John Cortes of Kissimmee in House District 43; Kamia Brown of Ocoee in House District 45; Bruce Antone of Orlando in House District 46; Amy Mercado of Orlando in House District 48; and Carlos Guillermo Smith of Orlando in House District 49. Each entered April with modest campaign funds of less than $50,000 apiece.

Honor roll: State legislators receive high marks from Florida Chamber

The grades are in, and from the perspective of those pushing for a more fertile business climate in the Sunshine State, the Legislature is getting better — but there’s still work to be done.

Each year the Florida Chamber grades state legislators after tabulating votes on measures backed by the pro-business group. The 2018 Legislative Report Card, released Thursday, showed significant improvement from the 2017 Session.

Forty-seven percent of legislators earned an A — that’s up from a mere 9 percent in 2017. The average GPA for both chambers came in at 78 percent, up from last year’s 73 percent.

The House performed better than the Senate; 64 representatives earned an A and the chamber’s GPA came to 79 percent, compared to eight A-earning senators and an average GPA of 74 percent for the upper chamber. House Speaker Richard Corcoran earned an A. Senate President Joe Negron earned a C.

A news release from the Chamber attributed the higher overall scores to “cutting red tape, chipping away at Florida-only taxes, funding for economic development, tourism marketing and infrastructure investments, and targeted education reforms.”

Unresolved matters, the Chamber contends, include reforming assignment of benefits and lawsuit abuses, stabilizing workers’ compensation and increasing investments in Florida’s workforce colleges.

“While there is always room for improvement and more work to be done, this legislative session’s grades showed many legislators took steps in the right direction on several policy fronts and voted to prevent harmful ideas from becoming law. We look forward to a session when every legislator earns an ‘A’ and Florida’s competitiveness outranks every other state,” said David Hart, executive vice president of the Chamber. 

The grades shouldn’t come as a surprise to lawmakers. The Chamber released its legislative priorities ahead of the 2018 Session and hand-delivered its agenda to every legislator. The group alerted lawmakers prior to each time it intended to factor a vote into its report card. In total, the Chamber scored 2,900 votes.

Along with the report card, the chamber announced its Distinguished Advocate award winners. The recognition is reserved for a handful of legislators who fought tirelessly for the passage of pro-business legislation – no matter how difficult – and furthered the Florida Chamber’s goals of securing Florida’s future through job creation and economic development,” according to the Chamber. 

Fifteen lawmakers received the distinction this year. Most were recognized for their pro-business efforts. St. Petersburg Rep. Ben Diamond, the lone Democrat on the list, was honored for championing a lawsuit-limiting amendment. Incoming chamber leaders, Republicans Rep. Jose Oliva and Sen. Bill Galvanowere recognized for their roles in championing school safety measures in the wake of the Parkland tragedy.

“We’re pleased to recognize members of the Florida Legislature with Distinguished Advocate awards who had the courage to put free enterprise principles for job creation above special interest,” said Chamber President and CEO Mark Wilson.

Other honorees include:

– Rep. Manny Diaz

– Rep. Joe Gruters

– Rep. Clay Ingram

– Rep. Mike La Rosa

– Rep. Scott Plakon

– Rep. Holly Raschein

– Rep. Paul Renner

– Rep. Jay Trumbull

– Sen. Dennis Baxley

– Sen. David Simmons

– Sen. Wilton Simpson

– Sen. Kelli Stargel

Jennifer Frankenstein-Harris: Fight to protect property rights far from over

In the final weeks of the 2018 Legislative Session, immense tragedy struck a quiet community right here in our state. Our elected officials rightfully focused their remaining time and energy on ensuring school safety and addressing mental health issues in the wake of the Parkland school shooting.

While legislators appropriately turned their attention to addressing these priorities, their bandwidth to tackle other issues was understandably reduced. Though legislation to create statewide standards for vacation rentals did pass committees in both the Florida House and Senate, ultimately time ran out and Senate Bill 1400 and House Bill 773 did not make it across the finish line this Session.

Some special interests are promoting this as a win—I challenge that narrative. Continuing to trample the private property rights of Floridians seems, to me, like anything but a victory.

The truth is, it is far too early for anyone to declare success just yet—we are only in the midst of this discussion. As president, I personally guarantee the Florida Vacation Rental Management Association (FL VRMA) will continue to bring forth education and a fierce determination to fight for the rights of property owners across the state of Florida.

I assure you this fight is far from over.

This year’s legislative session was, in reality, filled with small victories that added up to big gains for our cause. With each public discussion, the tide seems to be turning, we find we have more support than some may have expected, and important issues and hypocrisies are being brought to light.

These successes would not have been possible without the relentless work of Senator Greg Steube and Representative Mike La Rosa. We are so grateful for their faithfulness and continued determination to bring this matter to the forefront and promote bills that defend and protect the basic right of every Floridian to own and use their property to prosper.

I am confident we are getting close to our goal of reasonable vacation rental rules that are immune to the whims of unfriendly local ordinances. FL VRMA is working diligently with our partners and allies, including Airbnb and HomeAway, to ensure elected officials are educated and private property rights are protected, and we will continue to do so.

Property ownership is the American dream and should not be shattered by unfriendly local representatives and arbitrary barriers that make vacation rentals difficult or in some cases impossible.

Jennifer Frankenstein-Harris is president of the Florida Vacation Rental Management Association.

Two Democratic newcomers make up cash ground in Central Florida House races

While state lawmakers have been away in Session unable to raise campaign money, a handful of Central Florida challengers – mainly women first-time-candidate Democrats – played a little catch-up on fundraising in February, led by Ann Fuller, who reported raising $8,520 in her first month of a House District 52 campaign, and  Joy Goff-Marcil, who reported raising $7,500 in just two weeks in her new bid for House District 30.

Fuller, of Melbourne, is taking on Republican state Rep. Thad Altman for the central Brevard County HD 52 seat. In her first month she reported receiving more than 50 donations totaling $8,520, and she finished the month with about $7,800 in the bank.

Altman of Indialantic, who, like all other sitting lawmakers, was barred from fundraising during the Florida Legislative Session, came out of February with just under $19,000 in campaign cash.

There also is a Republican challenger in the race. Matt Nye of Melbourne reported raising $1,095 in February and finished the month with about $4,400 in the bank.

Meanwhile, in HD 30 covering south-central Seminole County and north-central Orange County, Goff-Marcil, a member of the Maitland City Commission, entered the race Feb. 16 and picked up $7,550 in cash plus another $3,000 in in-kind professional campaign services in the final 13 days of February. She finished the month with all $7,550 in cash left.

She’s seeking to take on Republican state Rep. Bob Cortes of Altamonte Springs. Cortes’s campaign spent some money in February and finished the month with about $77,700 in the bank.

Also in that race is another Democrat, Clark Anderson of Winter Park, who did not raise any money in February and, in fact, had to return a $1,000 donation improperly logged from his wife in January. [The contribution put her over the $1,000 limit from one person.] Anderson finished February with about $11,000 in cash, $10,000 of that coming in a personal loan he earlier had made to his campaign.

Throughout Central Florida, the biggest cash haul for the month was taken by Democrat newcomer Anna Eskamani of Winter Park, who reported raising $15,816 in February, plus receiving another $1,743 in donated campaign services. She is running for an open seat for House District 47 in central Orange County, as Republican incumbent state Rep. Mike Miller of Winter Park is running for Congress. She finished the month with about $138,000 in cash.

Also in that race, Republican Stockton Reeves VI reported raising $9,400 in February, and finishing the month with $100,000 in the bank, thanks largely to a $90,000 personal loan he made at the start of his campaign. Another Republican, Mikaela Nix‘s February campaign finance filings have not yet been posted by the Florida Secretary of State. She entered the race in late January.

In another race for an open seat, Republican David Smith, a Winter Springs businessman, reported raising $4,046 in February and donating another $5,000 to his campaign for the House District 28 seat representing northeast Seminole County. Republican incumbent state Rep. Jason Brodeur of Sanford is not seeking re-election. Smith, who now has lent his campaign $85,000, finished the month of February with about $143,000 in the campaign account.

Democratic candidate Lee Mangold of Casselberry reported raising $2,483 for his HD 28 campaign. He earlier lent his campaign $10,000, and he entered March with just under $13,000 available.

Continuing the theme of Democratic women newcomers having decent months in February, Barbara Cady kept the heat on some in her bid to take on Republican state Rep. Mike La Rosa in House District 42 in east and south Osceola County. Cady, of Kissimmee, reported raising $5,515 in February, her second-straight month of at least $5,000. She finished the month with about $10,500 in cash. Another Republican, Bienvenido Valentin Jr., reported raising $525 and spending just about all of it, finishing the month with about $90 in cash.

La Rosa entered March with about $66,000 in cash.

In House District 44, in southwest Orange County, Matthew Matin Winter Garden is beginning to make a statement as a Democrat to be reckoned with, raising $5,195 in February and lending his campaign another $550. He finished February with about $6,400 in the bank.

Democrat Eddy Dominguez, who ran for the Democrats in the HD 44 special election in October and just entered the 2018 race in January, had drawn significant in-kind support in his first month, but his February campaign finance reports have not yet been posted. A third Democrat, Dawn Antonis of Winter Garden, withdrew in late February.

HD 44 incumbent state Rep. Bobby Olszewski‘s February numbers also have not yet been posted. He finished January with about $30,000 in the bank.

In the House District 53 race in south Brevard County, Democratic challenger Phil Moore of West Melbourne reported raising $3,652 in his bid to unseat Republican state Rep. Randy Fine of Palm Bay. Moore’s two-month-old campaign entered March with about $3,945 in cash. Fine entered March with about $77,000 in his campaign account.

In the House District 50 race, Democrat Pamela Joy Dirschka reported raising $1,608, her first four-digit month, and finished with about $2,500 in the bank. Republican U.S. Rep Rene Plasencia of Orlando went into March with about $59,000 in cash, seeking re-election in a district stretching from east Orange County into north Brevard County.

In House District 29 in southwest Seminole County, Democratic challenger Darryl Block of Lake Mary reported raising $1,386 in his bid to take on Republican state Rep. Scott Plakon. Block finished the month, his second in the campaign, with about $3,100 in the bank. A second Democrat in the race, Patrick Brandt of Longwood, reported no campaign finance activity for the second consecutive month. He has about $1,325 in his account. Plakon went into March with about $54,000 in cash.

And in House District 31 in northwest Orange and east Lake County, Democratic challenger Debra Kaplan of Eustis reported raising $310 in February, and her campaign finished the month with about $4,100 in the bank. She’s taking on Republican state Rep. Jennifer Sullivan of Mount Dora, who finished February with about $25,000 in her campaign fund.

Snake eyes: Gambling bill dies for 2018

The Florida Legislature’s last best chance to pass comprehensive legislation on gambling came up a bad beat on Friday, with a conference committee calling it quits.

Senate President Joe Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran released a joint statement Friday night.

“Despite the good faith efforts of both the House and Senate, a gaming bill will not pass the Legislature this session,” they said.

That means the status quo abides, and no renewed deal with the Seminole Tribe of Florida that would have guaranteed $3 billion into state coffers over seven years. Tribe spokesman Gary Bitner declined comment.

It’s not clear when lawmakers will get another shot: A proposed “voter control of gambling” constitutional amendment will be on November’s ballot. If that’s approved by 60 percent, it would give statewide voters sole power to approve future expansions of gambling in Florida.

“We appreciate the tireless efforts of Chair (Travis) Hutson and Chair (Mike) La Rosa, as well as the many members of the House and Senate, and the professional staff, who worked diligently during these final days and hours of session,” the two legislative leaders said.

Sen. Hutson, a St. Augustine Republican, and Rep. La Rosa, a St. Cloud Republican, led their respective Senate and House contingents in the Conference Committee on Gaming.

“Gaming remains one of the most difficult issues we face as a Legislature,” Negron and Corcoran said. “We are pleased with the progress made over the last week and know that our colleagues will continue to work on this important issue.”

The House had made the last offer: Five new “limited gaming” licenses for either 500 slot machines or the ability to offer a certain type of card game—but not both.

Those licenses would be for any of the eight counties that approved slot machines through a local referendum: Brevard, Duval, Gadsden, Hamilton, Lee, Palm Beach, St. Lucie and Washington.

“We were going to get creative, think outside the box,” La Rosa told reporters earlier Friday, explaining the offer.

It was too creative, however, for Negron. He’s long pushed to expand slots to referendum counties, including St. Lucie, which he represents.

As a gaming industry source privately explained: “The House offer was too cute. Joe (Negron) wasn’t having it. He was willing to extend gaming conference over the weekend, but the last House offer killed it. So we’re done.”

Negron put it a little differently late Friday as regards the slots referendum counties.

“When we got to the details of what would be required to take advantage of those slots, it was just a bridge too far,” he said. “I think we just ran out of time … The positions ultimately weren’t reconcilable.”

The House also was intransigent on designated player games, a hybrid of poker and blackjack that’s proved lucrative to pari-mutuel cardrooms, being banned everywhere else.

Saved by the collapse of talks are pre-reveal machines, video games that look and play like slot machines that the House sought to explicitly outlaw.

Supporters say they’re for entertainment only, though they do pay out winning plays. Opponents, including the Tribe, say they’re illegal and violate its exclusive rights to offer slots outside South Florida.

A Tallahassee judge’s ruling that they constitute illegal gambling is on appeal.

The Tribe pays between $200 million and $300 million a year into state coffers as part of a deal that guarantees it exclusivity to offer certain games, particularly blackjack.

Though the Tribe and the state settled a lawsuit over blackjack, allowing them to offer the game till 2030, the Tribe’s ongoing payments to the state are contingent on state gambling regulators promising “aggressive enforcement” against games that threaten their exclusivity.

That has included pre-reveal, some kinds of designated player games, and even fantasy sports.

The sides are now in a “forbearance period” that ends March 31. But most gambling industry insiders don’t believe the Tribe would ever stop paying.

“That would just give the Legislature the excuse they need to finally do a deal with the pari-mutuels that would pass,” said one person, who asked not to be named.

The various offers from Friday are below.

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cardrooms

House strikes back on gambling: Five ‘limited gaming’ licenses

The House’s turn to deal in talks toward an omnibus gambling bill produced an proposal for five new “limited gaming” licenses for either 500 slots or designated player games—but not both.

And designated player games, a hybrid of poker and blackjack that’s proved lucrative to pari-mutuel cardrooms, would be banned everywhere else. And no new pari-mutuel, cardroom or slots licenses could be issued in the state.

The latest offer came at the Conference Committee on Gaming‘s second meeting on Friday.

“Our goal is to contract gaming as much as possible,” Rep. Mike La Rosa said after the meeting. “You can have slot machines or you can have designated player games.”

Earlier, the Senate came to the table with a plan for six new slots licenses, upping the House’s open of three new slots licenses.

The House’s caveats were that the licenses go outside Miami-Dade and Broward counties to any of the eight counties that approved slot machines through a local referendum: Brevard, Duval, Gadsden, Hamilton, Lee, Palm Beach, St. Lucie and Washington.

The House returned to its insistence that counties ratify their vote in a second slots referendum after this July 1, and that license  applicants “relinquish” five or more pari-mutuel permits. It added a $1 million non-refundable application fee.

The House contingent also insisted on an earlier provision that any new facility be at least 100 miles away from the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa, and at least 20 miles away from any other Seminole casino, including the one in Hollywood.

To renew a proposed limited gaming licenses, a pari-mutuel has to pony up $40 million in taxes and fees after one year.

In other provisions, the eight existing slots casinos in South Florida would have to reduce slot machines to 1,500 from 2,000.

The House would outlaw pre-reveal machines, video games that look and play like slot machines.

“This is not the type of gaming we want to allow,” said La Rosa, a St. Cloud Republican. “Slot machines are illegal unless we authorize them. We don’t see these as any different.”

Supporters say they’re for entertainment only, though they do pay out winning plays. Opponents, including the Seminole Tribe of Florida, say they’re illegal and violate their exclusive rights to offer slots outside South Florida.

A Tallahassee judge’s ruling that they constitute illegal gambling is on appeal.

“We try to include them,” La Rosa said of the Tribe. “We are thinking about them … Right now, we need to figure this out with the Senate.”

“The jet’s not in the air,” added Travis Hutson, La Rosa’s Senate counterpart, referring to the Seminoles’ method of travel to Tallahassee.

A pending deal with the Tribe would renew their exclusive rights to offer blackjack in the state and slots outside South Florida in exchange for $3 billion over seven years. The Senate wanted a 22-year deal; the House was at 20 years.

A next meeting conference committee meeting was not immediately set.

“I think the ball’s in our court,” said Hutson, a St. Augustine Republican. “We’ll take a look at this, seriously consider it, see what we want to do, if it’s something we want to move forward with.”

The various offers are below.

 

House makes modest offer toward gambling compromise

The House’s first stab on comprehensive gambling legislation this year includes a spartan offer to the Senate of only three new slot machine licenses for pari-mutuels in counties that OK’d slots in local referendums.

The Conference Committee on Gaming met for the first time Thursday evening; Rep. Mike La Rosa was elected chair.

The proposal on the table would also require the selected counties to conduct a second referendum to confirm the first, to be held after July 1, the offer says.

Owners would have to surrender a gambling permit at one of their locations and agree to “permanent termination of all gaming activities at that permitted location.”

Slots referendums have passed in eight counties, including Palm Beach and Gadsden. There, the Alabama-based Poarch Band of Creek Indians operates the track in Gretna, and a greyhound track in Pensacola. For instance, they’d have to agree to shut down greyhound operations to get slots in Gretna.

The offer, however, also requires the permit (or permits) given up to have “generated at least $40 million in total handle during” fiscal year 2015-16. (Handle refers to the total amount of bets taken.)

At first, only Palm Beach County appears to qualify under the initial offer. But an owner in any of the other “referendum counties” could combine or buy up permits to reach the magic number, the language suggests.

Palm Beach Kennel Club reported more than $42 million in total handle that fiscal year, according to state records. In fact, that’s the only one that clears the threshold by itself. Pensacola Greyhound Track reported total handle of $986,835 that same year.

Moreover, any new slots facility would have to be at least 100 miles away from the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa, and at least 25 miles away from any other Seminole casino, including the one in Hollywood.

Each new casino can have no more than 500 machines, and renewal would be contingent on that facility ponying up at least $40 million in taxes and fees after a year.

The maximum number of slot machines in casinos where they’re now offered at pari-mutuels in South Florida would have to go down to 1,500 from 2,000.

Committee vice-chair Travis Hutson took the offer for the Senate but did not comment on it. By shortly after 7 p.m., the committee announced it would hold no further meetings Thursday evening.

House, Senate reach budget deal with $90m in last-minute spending

Legislative leaders closed out the largest proposed budget in state history Thursday that included nearly $90 million in last-minute spending for projects that largely have to do with education.

As the House and Senate finalized differences on the roughly $88 billion 2018-19 budget, the supplemental funding — informally known as the “sprinkle fund” — was unveiled in a 10 a.m. budget meeting.

The 21 last-minute spending list includes $30 million for charter school maintenance projects, $20 million for performance-based incentive in the state university system and $3.3 million for the University of South Florida.

From that list, a dozen items are hurricane-related costs and contingent on reimbursements from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Another budget item negotiators agreed to pay in the end is a member project championed by state Rep. Mike La Rosa, a Republican whose district includes Polk County.

La Rosa wanted to get $1.3 million in funding to repair major damage caused to a Polk County charter school by Hurricane Irma last year. Lawmakers decided to give $1.2 million to the school to help with building repair costs and costs associated with school supplies and relocating students to an off campus location. From those funds, $700,000 are subject to federal reimbursement.

Throughout budget negotiations budget writers said members projects were cut and priorities were reshuffled to fund the $400 million “Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Act,” which included $67 million for a controversial program to arm school personnel and more funding for mental health services in schools across the state.

Lawmakers have yet to vote on the budget, which is the largest proposed budget in state history. They will have to wait until at least Sunday afternoon to give it final approval.

Carlos Smith’s $1M Pulse memorial amendment draws some Republicans, but fails

An attempt by Orlando Democratic state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith to get the state to provide $1 million to help build a Pulse nightclub memorial in Orlando drew some crossover votes from Republicans (including many from Central Florida) but failed in the House Tuesday night.

The proposed amendment, which would have added $1 million for the Pulse memorial to the $1 million for a Parkland memorial already included in House Bill 7026, the “Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act,” was voted down 67-49.

The proposal got yes votes from all Democrats, and eight Republicans, including five from Central Florida: state Reps. Bob Cortes of Altamonte Springs, Mike Miller of Winter Park, Bobby Olszewski of Winter Garden, Rene Plasencia of Orlando, and Scott Plakon of Longwood. They joined Smith and other Central Florida Democratic state Reps. Bruce Antone of Orlando, Kamia Brown of Ocoee, John Cortes of Kissimmee, and Amy Mercado of Orlando. Republican state Reps. Heather Fitzenhagen of Fort Myers, Chris Latvala of Clearwater, and Holly Raschein of Key Largo also voted yes.

Among the Central Florida delegation voting against the $1 million for the Pulse memorial fund were Republican state Reps. Jason Brodeur of Sanford, Mike La Rosa of St. Cloud, David Santiago of Deltona, and Jennifer Sullivan of Mount Dora.

The OnePulse Foundation has been planning and raising money for a major memorial and museum on the site of the former popular Orlando gay nightclub where 49 people were murdered in the early morning hours of June 12, 2016.

Smith, who has been intensely outspoken in trying to get the Florida Legislature to address Pulse alongside its efforts to address the Feb. 14 massacre at Douglas High School, declared on Twitter late Tuesday night that he was disappointed, but he expressed thanks “to the 8 Republicans who voted YES.”

“49 deeply symbolic votes in support of remembering our 49 angels,” Smith added.

With little ado, House passes 2018 gaming bill

With only one member commenting, the House swiftly passed its omnibus gambling bill for 2018, setting up a possible conference of the two chambers.

The bill (HB 7067) was OK’d on a 70-40 vote, with Republican Halsey Beshears of Monticello and Tom Goodson of Rockledge joining the Democrats in voting ‘no.’

Bill sponsor Mike La Rosa, a St. Cloud Republican, has said he expects both chambers to go to conference on the legislation.

A proposed “voter control of gambling” constitutional amendment will be on November’s ballot; if approved, it would give statewide voters power to approve future expansions of gambling in Florida.

If they don’t get something done now, lawmakers may well be frozen out of influencing gambling.

In debate, Aventura Democrat Joe Geller objected to a ban on pre-reveal games, video consoles that look and play like slot machines.

He also said the 20-year term on a renewed Seminole Compact was too long and would “tie the hands” of future Legislatures.

Finally, he said a provision to funnel some gambling money away from traditional public education was a “poison pill” for the chamber’s Democrats.

Significant differences still separate the House and Senate: For one, the House proposal declares designated-player games, a hybrid of poker and blackjack that’s been lucrative for the pari-mutuels, to be “illegal and prohibited.” The Senate would allow them.

The Senate bill (SB 840) is available for the floor there. The 2018 Legislative Session ends Friday.

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