TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- The Florida Legislature is rolling into the sixth week of its annual session and there's a big question out there: can legislators cut a deal on gambling in the Sunshine State?
Gambling is technically illegal in Florida, but it's allowed at casinos owned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, and it's also allowed at dog and horse tracks scattered throughout the state.
In the last several years legislators have considered several gambling proposals, including ones that would allow new casinos in South Florida, but those bills haven't made it to the finish line because each year there's been huge disagreements among the tribe, track owners and those who don't want any more gambling in the state.
A Senate committee on Monday is scheduled to consider yet another proposal.
The initial bill filed by Sen. Travis Hutson was a stripped down proposal that allowed dog and horse tracks to keep open their poker rooms even if they stopped conducting live races. The bill (SB 840) would also make it clear that Floridians who bet on fantasy football and fantasy baseball aren't breaking the law.
Hutson, however, on Friday added major changes to his bill, including proposing a new agreement with the Seminole Tribe that would allow them to offer craps and roulette at their casinos across the state.
The House has its own gambling proposal, but it has major differences with the Senate so it's not clear if a deal can be worked out between now and the end of the session in early March.
The Florida House on Wednesday is going to consider a bill (HB 335) that would place limits on child marriage but would not ban it completely. The Senate has already passed a bill that would ban marriage for anyone under the age of 18. House Speaker Richard Corcoran, however, thinks there should be exceptions for 16- and 17-year-olds in cases where the girl is pregnant.
Other bills coming up next week include:
-A measure that calls for Florida to remain in Daylight Saving Time all year instead of limiting it between March and November. Americans move their clocks up one hour each spring and then move them back later in the year.
The full House will consider the bill (HB 1013) on Wednesday, although the Florida Legislature doesn't have the final say. Congress would need to amend existing federal law to allow the change.
-A Senate committee on Wednesday will consider a bill (SB 462) that would prohibit hydraulic fracturing, or fracking in Florida. This is the second stop for the legislation, but it is not moving in the House.
-The Florida House is scheduled to take up a measure that would create a uniform system for municipal elections. Currently, cities do not have to hold elections at the same date as federal and state elections. The bill sponsored by Rep. Matt Caldwell (HB 7037) would limit city elections to three different times. Municipalities could hold their elections during the same times as other elections or they hold them in November of odd-numbered years or in March.
- A bill that would ease some of the restrictions now in place for so-called payday loans will be considered by a House committee on Tuesday. The House Government Operations and Technology Appropriations Subcommittee is scheduled to consider legislation (HB 857) that would double the current limit on the loans from $500 to $1,000 and would allow lenders to give 60-to-90 day loans.
Consumer advocates contend the bill, which is also being opposed by a large number of churches and religious organizations, would create a debt trap for poor people. Back in 2001, the state cracked down on loans where lenders give borrowers money in exchange for holding a postdated check as collateral.
Backers of the bill say they need to change the law because of potential new federal regulations.
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