Connect with us
casino table

Influence

House to Senate: No homestead exemption increase, no gambling bill

The fate of this year’s gambling bill is being held hostage to passage of a homestead exemption increase, sources told FloridaPolitics.com Sunday night.

Publicly, lawmakers have been saying that progress on omnibus gambling legislation was taking a backseat to the 2017-18 state budget talks.

The Conference Committee on Gaming hasn’t met since last Thursday. The Senate is largely for some expansion of gambling in the state; the House wants to hold the line.

Behind the scenes, however, House leadership made the decision to put gambling on hold until the Senate moved on the House’s priority bill, an increase in the state’s homestead exemption that would effectively result in a property tax reduction.

Even if passed, the measure creates a constitutional amendment that still has to be approved by 60 percent of voters on the 2018 statewide ballot.

It’s on the Senate floor for a vote Monday afternoon.

“Everyone is on pins and needles on lots of issues waiting for that vote,” said one veteran lobbyist. “Everything melts down if the Senate doesn’t pass it.”

But the measure is bitterly opposed by many Democrats and local governments, who say cutting taxes means less money to fund critical local services like police and fire. It wouldn’t affect taxes to fund local public schools.

But House Speaker Richard Corcoran and his lieutenants made clear, according to lobbyists in The Process, that the gambling bill “and a whole lot of other stuff” will suffocate and die without passage of the exemption measure.

“Session comes to a halt without the homestead bill,” another consultant said.

Signals from the Senate of how badly it wants a gambling bill this year have been mixed.

Sen. Bill Galvano, the Bradenton Republican and likely Senate President for 2018-10, has long been the chamber’s point man on gambling.

At the first conference meeting, Galvano said he did not “want to raise anybody’s expectations,” at the same time adding that “inaction (on gambling) is not an option.”

Neither he nor state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, a Miami-Dade Republican and Galvano’s House counterpart in the Gaming conference, responded to a request for comment.

The night before the Monday vote, a gambling lobbyist sent a text, saying things were “scary … I’m nervous.”

Written By

Jim Rosica is the Tallahassee-based Senior Editor for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

Sign up for Sunburn

Receive our team's agenda-setting morning read of what's hot in Florida politics. Delivered straight to your inbox Monday through Friday.

Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson.
Email: Peter@FloridaPolitics.com
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

Connect
Sign up for Sunburn

Receive our team's agenda-setting morning read of what's hot in Florida politics. Delivered straight to your inbox Monday through Friday.