SEMINOLE GAMING COMPACT The Seminole Tribe of Florida and Governor Scott signed a newly crafted gaming Compact on December 7th which would add $3 billion to the State’s coffers over seven years. Since the last agreement expired in July, discussions regarding its renewal have been underway with the Legislature and Governor’s Office. The new 20-year agreement allows the Tribe to add roulette and craps to its Tampa and Hollywood Hard Rock properties and expand blackjack games to all of their seven casinos. Pari-mutuels in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties could add slots and racinos could add blackjack tables. The pact must still be ratified by the House and Senate. Anti-gaming advocacy group No Casinos challenges gaming expansion proposed by the Tribe in the Compact. Florida earned $289 million from the Tribe this past year.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA LICENSES Two years after the law authorizing the cultivation and use of low-THC medical marijuana, the Department of Health awarded licenses to five growers throughout Florida. Thirteen growers officially contested the decision before the December 14th deadline. The Department spokesperson acknowledged this will further delay the program.
FLORIDA’S DEBT RISES For the first time in four years, the State’s debt rose in 2015 to $25.7 billion, an increase of 6% over the previous fiscal year. The rise in debt is attributed to money the State borrowed to expand I-4 in Central Florida. Governor Scott noted that the cost will be covered by highway toll collections once the lanes are operational in 2021.
FDLE REQUESTS FUNDS FOR SHOOTING INVESTIGATIONS Saying they are overwhelmed by requests to investigate officer-involved shootings around the state, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement asked for an additional $3.4 million in next year’s budget to hire 26 more agents. Local law enforcement agencies needing FDLE assistance have more than doubled in the last five years. Last year, FDLE was requested to investigate 63 shootings, an increase from 48 in 2013.
FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS Claims of corruption and sexual abuse at Lowell Correctional Institution in Ocala prompted the Department of Corrections to open an investigation into allegations published in the Miami Herald. FDLE had closed an investigation into a wrongful death charge of an inmate at the all-women’s prison. However, years of physical, mental and sexual abuse at the hands of corrections officers and staff were uncovered and are being investigated.
PLANNED PARENTHOOD The Florida Department of Law Enforcement closed a preliminary investigation into 16 Planned Parenthood clinics. After the release of videos allegedly showing Planned Parenthood officials selling fetal tissue for medical research, Representative Charles McBurney (R-Jacksonville), Chair of the House Criminal Justice Committee, asked for the inquiry. McBurney’s request followed Governor Scott’s call for the Agency for Healthcare Administration (AHCA) to investigate the clinics. AHCA found “no evidence of the mishandling of fetal remains” at any clinic in Florida.