Gambling amendment lawyer defends ‘Voters in Charge’ initiative

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The lawyer for a proposed constitutional amendment limiting gambling in Florida fired back against critics, saying their arguments have “no basis in law.”

Dan Gelber, lawyer for Voters In Charge, the committee behind the amendment, filed an answer brief with the Florida Supreme Court on Wednesday.

The Voter Control of Gambling amendment would give Floridians more control over the expansion of gambling in the state.

Proposed amendments to the Constitution must be OK’d by the Supreme Court to ensure they cover only one subject and that their ballot title and summary aren’t misleading.

“The ballot summary follows the Amendment’s principle language nearly verbatim, so it fairly informs voters of the Amendment’s chief purpose,” Gelber wrote.

“The Opponents’ argument to the contrary—that the ballot summary does not inform voters about its possible effects on statutes and pending litigation—ignores this Court’s consistent pronouncements that a ballot summary must fairly inform voters of the proposed amendment’s chief purpose only,” he added. “There is no requirement whatsoever that a ballot summary detail every possible effect on society, the law, or the economy.”

The amendment would “ensure that Florida voters shall have the exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling,” the ballot summary says.

It’s aiming to get on the 2018 statewide ballot. Such initiatives need 60 percent approval to be added to the constitution.

The amendment is opposed by a gamut of gambling interests, including “Floridians for Clarity in Gaming Control.”

It’s been described as “an unincorporated association of individuals and business sharing concerns regarding the proposed constitutional amendment,” ranging from “registered voters in Seminole County, Florida to arcade operators, members of Native American tribes, casino and lottery vendors and pari-mutuel permit holders.”

Gelber also is a former House Democratic leader and unsuccessfully ran for attorney general in 2010, losing to Republican Pam Bondi.

He also has been general counsel to Fair Districts Now, the coalition behind constitutional amendments aimed at preventing gerrymandering in political redistricting.

Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.