Lee and Gardiner confirm gaming bill won't return: 'it's a bridge too far'
If anyone thought there was a chance of resurrecting the gaming bills at Thursday's Senate Appropriations Committee meeting, Senate President Andy Gardiner and budget chairman, Sen. Tom Lee, extinguished that possibility late Wednesday.
"It's just a bridge too far this late,'' said Lee, R-Brandon, after the agenda to the last meeting of his committee was posted with no gaming bills. "We don't have the time on the agenda. There's not an agreement. Every time you put a gaming bill up in the Florida Legislature it's like throwing a side of beef into a shark tank."
Meanwhile, Gardiner, R-Orlando, contradicted claims from members of the pari-mutuel industry that he was the force that stopped the gaming bills from advancing to the Senate floor.
"I've heard the lobbyists, the gaming guys, trying to misconstrue my comments,'' Gardiner told reporters. "If something came to my desk. I would not block it. As far as I know, it has not come to my desk. I will support the sponsor of the bill. We can't try to rewrite history here.
"Sen. Bradley negotiated a compact with the governor's office for months. In committee, an amendment was put on his bill which he voted against. So I don't think anybody would be surprised when he stands up before the committee and TPs his bill. This idea that we would just waive all the rules because somebody wants to have a vote on the floor -- we're going to follow what the chair recommendation is. There's still time but I think people need to make sure we don't misconstrue what I said."
"As I've said before, gaming bills tend to die of their own weight. What happened in the committee, the reality is what they did violated the existing compact,'' he said. "Members have to decide if they want to do that. An argument could be made, if you pass that bill as amended, we would have had to take $75 million from the existing budget we're presently negotiating. I think it just got too heavy and the sponsor decided to do away with it."