WEB POKER TAX, REGULATION BILL DIE IN SENATE
An attempt to regulate the burgeoning Internet poker empire and start collecting state taxes from it died Tuesday when the Senate Criminal Justice Committee killed the bill with a 2-2 vote. SB 812 would have regulated online poker games by allowing Floridians to play with other Floridians through an Intranet system operated out of parimutuel card rooms. Gross receipts would be taxed at 10 percent — estimated at about $10.5 million a year — and another 4 percent of profits would have gone toward increasing purses for horse and dog tracks in Florida. But the measure was opposed by the Florida Sheriff's Association and the Poker Players Alliance, a Washington, D.C., group that is backed by internet poker vendors.
Scott: Fill budget hole, avoid cuts
Gov. Rick Scott said he'll cancel his emergency order deeply cutting rates paid by the Agency for Persons with Disabilities if the Legislature comes up with the cash to fill a projected $174 million deficit. Scott's office points out that state law prohibits agencies from running deficits so he had little choice but to cut rates. Had Scott done nothing, the agency was scheduled to go broke in mid May. The House budget has offered to plug the deficit in the current year. The Senate doesn't. But Senate President Mike Haridopolos has suggested he'll pick up the House language.
Abortion rights lobby gets busy
About 200 supporters of Planned Parenthood cruised the Capitol halls to raise awareness of 18 bills introduced this year to limit the ability for women to receive abortions. "We will not allow any of these things to pass without calling attention to the violation of women's rights that disregard a freedom of conscience and disrespect for individual liberty that all of these bills represent," Sen. Nan Rich, D-Weston, said at a rally.
Scott enlists help in pension reform
Gov. Scott joined business-backed groups to urge the Legislature to go even farther than their existing pension reform proposals and eliminate state and local government's traditional pension plans for all new employees. "I don't think they go far enough; all new employees need to go to a defined contribution plan,'' Scott said, warning that the deficits in both the state and local systems threaten the long-time financial security of workers in the system. The House and Senate have rejected putting all employees into the defined contribution plan. The reason: It creates a short-term deficit in the existing retirement fund, which is considered one of the strongest in the nation.
Times/Herald staff writers Mary Ellen Klas, Janet Zink and Marc Caputo contributed to this report.