Gov. DeSantis staff lobbies lawmakers ahead of Special Session on gaming

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With the state's budget bill still hanging in the balance, the Governor still has cards to play in negotiations.

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ staff spent the weekend ahead of a Special Session on gaming lobbying members to vote in favor of the new Compact with the Seminole Tribe.

Speaking to reporters on a regular Zoom media meeting to discuss the upcoming Special Session, House Minority Co-Leader Evan Jenne said DeSantis’ office was active this weekend.

“I think that they’ve been making phone calls and talking to people on both sides of the aisle,” Jenne said.

Jenne characterized the lobby as unthreatening.

“It’s been friendly. From what I’ve heard it’s been, ‘Hey, this is the Governor’s priority. You’ve been great to the Governor. The Governor has been great to you. Let’s continue this relationship,’” Jenne said.

Opposition to the Compact, which is expected to expand gaming, could come from some lawmakers who are morally opposed to the idea of expanding gambling in the state. Specifically, the online betting provision in the compact has drawn scrutiny from gambling opponents and conservative lawmakers, prompting the Tribe to issue a letter assuring the language in the compact is benign.

The provision in the Compact “is simply an agreement to continue discussions about online gaming, but there is no enforcement mechanism if the state fails to engage in such discussions,” Seminole Tribe of Florida Chairman Marcellus Osceola Jr. wrote.

But if the opposition is not satisfied with the Tribe’s response and still wants to oppose the legislation, Jenne noted “friendly” lobbying isn’t the Governor’s only card to play during gaming negotiations.

“We still have not seen the final signature on the budget. So, there are a lot of things that can disappear quite literally with a stroke of a pen. So, I do anticipate some people that were talking in a very brave manner offline, for that number to decrease abruptly and dramatically due to just the situation we find ourself in,” Jenne said.

But to pass the Compact, a simple majority is needed. In the House that means 61 votes. In the Senate, it would be 21 votes.

Jenne said if the strategy to tank the deal is successful, it would likely stem from opposing legislation related to revenue collection, such as the fee collection bills that are part of the Senate package, which has to pass with a two-thirds majority.

Sen. Travis Hutson who is shepherding the bills through the Senate, said he will work with leadership to make sure it passes.

The two chambers will gavel in for the Special Session at 1 p.m. Monday. It is expected to last through the week.

Jenne also said the House Democratic caucus is meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Monday to determine a caucus position, if any.

Haley Brown

Haley Brown covers state government for Previously, Haley covered the West Virginia Legislature and anchored weekend newscasts for WVVA in Bluefield, W.Va. Haley is a Florida native and a graduate of the University of Florida. You can reach her at [email protected].


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