Richter: Gambling committee will move slowly
By Brandon Larrabee, The News Service of Florida
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The head of a new committee in the Senate set to focus on gaming issues says he expects the panel to conduct a thorough study of gambling in Florida instead of moving quickly.
Sen. Garrett Richter, a Naples Republican who also serves as president pro tempore, said Wednesday that he viewed the recent redistricting process, which included several summer hearings across the state in 2011, as a potential model for the Senate Gaming Committee.
"It would be very appropriate to try to take a comprehensive look at gaming for the state of Florida," Richter said. He added that the committee's work would probably be "a very deliberate process over the next couple of years."
That approach would seem to square with suggestions by Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, and House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, that the Legislature might take time to study a tangle of issues around gambling before tackling it.
There are issues surrounding pari-mutuel facilities, whether to allow huge destination casinos in South Florida, and how any expansion of gambling might interact with the compact the state has signed with the Seminoles.
"I do not see the committee coming up with a knee-jerk response to gambling," Richter said.
Gaetz announced the membership of Richter's committee and the others in the Senate on Wednesday, less than a week before meetings begin Monday.
Senate Appropriations Chairman Joe Negron, R-Palm City, will also head up a select committee considering how to approach the implementation of the federal health-care law in Florida. Gaetz had already announced Negron would chair the main budget-writing committee.
Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, will chair the Senate Judiciary Committee. Sen. John Legg, R-New Port Richey, will lead the Senate Education Committee. Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, will head up the Senate Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee.
Sen. David Simmons, R-Maitland, will take over the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee, while Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, will chair the Senate Health Policy Committee. Sen. Kelli Stargell, R-Lakeland, will chair the Senate Regulated Industries Committee.
The assignments announced Wednesday included five committees chaired by Democrats. Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, will chair the Senate Agriculture Committee, while Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, will chair the Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee. Sen. Jeremy Ring, D-Margate, will lead the Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee.
Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, and Sen. Joseph Abruzzo, D-Royal Palm Beach, will serve as the Senate chairs of a pair of joint committees with the House.
"I am grateful to Senate President Gaetz for listening to the interests and desires of my Caucus members to serve on various Senate Committees," Senate Minority Leader Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, said in a statement issued by his office. "By appointing them as Chairs of five of them, President Gaetz underscored his commitment to bipartisan cooperation for the good of the people of Florida. And I applaud him for his actions."