5 things to watch Monday at the Florida Legislature

March 3, 2014 

The day before the start of the 2014 legislative session offers a little bit of everything Monday: policymaking, pre-session fundraising, partisan posturing and partying. Here are five things to watch on the day before the session begins:

-- The Senate Gaming Committee will discuss three bills to overhaul Florida gaming laws to legalize two new "destination resort" casinos in Miami-Dade and Broward and to create a new statewide gaming control board. No votes will be taken Monday afternoon.

-- The Senate Ethics & Elections Committee, chaired by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, will take up a bill to tighten residency requirements for legislators. News outlets in South Florida have reported on a number of lawmakers whose primary residences are outside their districts.

-- Activists at opposite ends of the spectrum will hold dueling rallies at the Capitol. Democratic organizations such as the NAACP, AFL-CIO, AFSCME and Service Employees International Union will rally in support of Medicaid expansion and to repeal the "stand your ground" law. The conservative Americans for Prosperity is also rallying in opposition to Medicaid expansion, and its big draw at last year's Capitol rally was House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, who led the opposition to Medicaid expansion.

-- Hundreds of legislators, lobbyists and hangers-on will gather for a Tallahassee tradition: a lavish annual pre-session reception sponsored by a business lobby, Associated Industries of Florida. AIF's event is usually held outdoors, and Monday's forecast calls for a chance of showers.

-- Monday is the last day legislators can solicit and accept campaign contributions until after the session's scheduled conclusion May 2. So there will be the usual last-minute flurry of fundraisers, including an event benefiting the campaign coffers of 13 House Republicans, and House Democrats are promoting a "roundup" of chasing checks. Their notice to lobbyists said: "Drop Off a House Victory or Member Contribution on Your Way to Other Events."

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