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Democrats Rich, Saunders offer views on 2012 legislative session

Both Democratic caucus leaders in the Legislature offered contrasting views Wednesday about the upcoming 2012 legislative session. Speaking to reporters and editors at the annual AP planning seminar, Sen. Nan Rich, D-Weston, and Rep. Ron Saunders, R-Key West, talked about redistricting, gambling, the budget and other topics.

Saunders predicted Republicans would unveil redistrict maps in the first couple weeks of the session, and that the first maps are likely to alienate some House GOP members because there aren't enough Republican voters in Florida to maintain their 81-member super-majority.

The veteran Key West lawmaker said a proposal to create destination gambling casinos in South Florida can't pass the House without significant Democratic support, because dozens of House Republicans are opposed to any more gambling in Florida.

Rich called it "incredibly disappointing" that Republicans are posed to make more cuts to programs while at the same time turning away federal grants, instead of evaluating Florida's tax structure.  Rich, who's considering running for governor in 2014, said she's on alert for "the right-wing social agenda" in the election-year session that opens Jan. 10, including a prayer-in-school bill and proposals to expand vouchers in schools.

-- Steve Bousquet