Here’s what I think I think about budget negotiations, Andy Gardiner, and the Seminole Compact

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Legislators met in the Capitol over the weekend to work out spending on key areas such as education, transportation and health care, having reached a broad budget deal regarding tax cuts and overall spending. Now budget committees are working on individual items.

Here’s what I think I think today about budget negotiations, Andy Gardiner‘s legacy, and the Seminole Compact.

— I wonder if Jack Latvala, before he unleashes one of his legendary meltdowns, works himself up to it in the morning, perhaps by standing in a mirror and slapping himself in the face. “You will be a grizzly bear!” <Smack> “You will be a grizzly bear!” <Slap> How else to explain the acting clinic he put on after legislative leaders announced they were rejecting Gov. Rick Scott’s proposal to set aside $250 million to lure new businesses to Florida.

“The Legislature has just delivered a punch in the gut to a governor who has poured every ounce of his soul into jobs since he’s been governor,” Latvala said. “To zero out this category is insulting and demeaning. … It’s unconscionable.”

Gut punch or not, Latvala doth protest too much. After all, wasn’t it Latvala who was instructed by the Senate President to include the incentive money in the budget in the first place? And who has been a bigger thorn in the side to Scott’s Enterprise Florida and Department of Economic Opportunity than Latvala (other than Americans for Prosperity)? The senator from North Pinellas needs to make up his mind about how feels about Scott. Is he still peeved at his office for last year’s budget vetoes or has that anger been buried and replaced by the support of Scott as part of an effort to protect Latvala’s budget projects?

— Here’s what happened behind-the-scenes explaining why the House zeroed out the incentives money. Despite a profound philosophical objection by many House members to set aside money to lure new businesses to Florida, the House was prepared to accept giving some money to EFI. But then it became apparent to House leadership that, to the Governor’s Office, incentive money was a binary issue: All or none. Well, not even all or nothing, just all or all. Anything less than all meant Scott would punish lawmakers with vetoes of their budget projects.

Well, the House was never going to get to $250 million for Enterprise Florida. Never. So if anything less than $250 million still leads to a pissed off Governor, you might as well piss him off all the way.

— Speaking of which, the fantasy that the Legislature will pass a budget early enough so that it can vote on it in time to send it to the governor so that he has to sign or veto (or line-item veto portions) so that the House and Senate could maybe possibly override his vetoes is exactly that: a Rube Goldberg-ian fantasy that sounds as if Wile E. Coyote is drawing up legislative strategy. There just isn’t the framework or infrastructure in place in the Legislature to accomplish this. Yes, the budget may be passed early. Yes, it might get to the Governor before next week. But it’s just not in the cards, according to top legislative insiders, to pull off that kind of brinksmanship.

 As Jim Rosica of Florida Politics first reported, Rep. Matt Gaetz submitted 122 pages of changes to HB 7109 that would keep intact the guts of the proposed Seminole Compact and allow for expanded gambling throughout the state. The language allows slot machines in six counties where voters approved the gambling in local referendums with $120 million in revenue guaranteed to the state, and allow a form of poker known as “designated player games” at all pari-mutuels, something regulators now say is illegal. The language allows expanded blackjack in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, though with a $25 bet limit, and would allow dog tracks to “decouple,” removing the requirement that dog and horse tracks run live races to have more profitable card rooms and slot machines.

— For the life of me, I can’t imagine Andy “Mr. Orlando” Gardiner leaving as part of his legacy as Senate President major deals that would be to the detriment of Disney and Mears Transportation. Yet the Seminole Compact and a deal to end the ride-sharing wars are still in play. Maybe Gardiner does not truly believe movement on these issues will hurt Disney and Mears. Maybe he thinks he knows better and that deals now will be better than the deals Disney and Mears will be forced to take in the future. Regardless, it will be an interesting meeting of the Central Florida Tiger Bay Club if Gardiner has to go before it and explain why he did not block deals that hurt two of his region’s most important corporate partners.

The question now is how much control Gardiner still has over his chamber. Is Joe Negron ready to rise and assert control as the incoming leader, thereby pushing a new gaming framework that whitelists fantasy sports? Or is President-to-be Bill Galvano going to slow down progress on the Compact because he’d rather see a new Compact written on his watch (or ascendancy) than now or with Sen. Rob Bradley in charge of the Regulated Industries Committee.

As one House insider notes, Gaetz’ gambling bill is smartly written and in a way that it could pass the Legislature. (One item that could cause social conservatives heartburn in the Gaetz amendment is the legalization of Advanced Deposit Wagering (ADW). Horse and dog track owners have been doing it for years but without authority from the state. ADW allows a person to place a wager from their phone or computer. That provision could allow the Seminoles to do the same thing. That creates a further expansion of gambling in the state and makes many legislators uncomfortable. And the kicker, there’s a new tax tied to ADW.)

I’ve predicted that the Legislature will agree to a Compact just out of some reverse psychology play on Murphy’s law.

After all, what’s the worst that could happen if a Compact isn’t agreed upon? That’s right, another round of campaign contributions this election cycle from the myriad gambling interests.

Material from The Associated Press was used in this post.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.