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The Day That Was In Florida Politics – March 2

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Marijuana, gambling and a big party were on the state Capitol agenda Monday, indicating that prohibitionists may find it difficult to be heard during the 2015 Florida legislative session.

Session begins Tuesday morning at 9:30 when the Florida House of Representatives convenes but the week began with a hearing on a proposed rule for the marijuana bill lawmakers approved last year.

The Office of Compassionate Use Director Patricia Nelson fielded questions and listened to comments for about eight hours on a proposed regulatory structure for a medicinal marijuana industry.

The proposal would use a scorecard to evaluate applicants for five licenses the Legislature authorized. Nelson may revise the proposal or publish the rule as is. Once she decides what to do stakeholders will have 14 days to decide to go to court to block it.

Monday afternoon House Majority Leader Dana Young unveiled the Gaming Control Act of 2015.  The proposal is a package of four inter-related bills that contracts gambling in the north, authorizes destination resort casinos in the south, decouples greyhound racing from other gaming activities and calls for a constitutional amendment to lift a moratorium on any further expansion.

“I look forward to the spirited discussion and debate on the concepts contained in this bill during the 2015 Session,” said Young.

More details of the proposal are here.

Young said if both resort casinos were built the state would reap about $100 million more annually than is currently generated by a compact with the Seminole Tribe. That agreement is set to expire later this year and the Seminoles have begun a campaign to extend its exclusive right to offer Las Vegas-style games in the state, more on that here.

Monday was the final day for fundraising for state legislators; they are prohibited from raising campaign money during the session.  Both parties held fundraisers at the Governor’s Club. The Republican event was co-hosted by Jeb Bush and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, although scheduling conflicts prevented them from attending. Wonder what they’re up to.

And Monday was the annual Associated Industries of Florida’s pre-session bash. The party held at AIF’s headquarters located between the Capitol and Governor’s Mansion, attracts the nearly 1,700 lobbyists, 160 legislators and desperados and speculators, including reporters.

Also Monday, many at the state Capitol paused to remember Ken Plante, a former Republican senator, adviser to Gov. Jeb Bush and prominent lobbyist.  Plante, 75, passed away Sunday; he had been diagnosed with ALS in 2012.

The Orlando native was elected to the Winter Park seat in 1967, rose to Senate Minority Leader and did not seek re-election in 1978 because he believed a financial disclosure law was an invasion of privacy.

“When reporters look for a man of honor who might talk about what’s going on in political campaigns or the Legislature, they frequently turn to Plante,” is how Lucy Morgan described Plante when he announced his illness in 2012.

Margie Menzell compiled more comments from Plante’s friends and colleagues here.

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