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Latvala blasts Senate leadership for 'intimidating' members to withdraw amends

Sen. Jack Latvala, R-St. Petersburg, stood to blast Senate leadership for failing to allow a series of amendments on a parimutuel bill to end live racing at greyhound tracks.

"The best way that we can craft a parimutuel bill is if everybody comes to the table,'' he said. "I have great respect for the institution…" He talked about how the public sent them to the Legislature because "they think we have a brain. They think we can make decisions and it’s very disappointing to be part of a situation where all of our brains and all of our contributons aren’t utitlized to the best degree."

As Haridopolos stood at the podium, his arm crossed, sending the signal that he was not pleased, Latvala added: Senators who wanted to file amendments "were intimidated out of them."

Senate Rules Chairman John Thrasher, who three years ago lobbied for the Jacksonville Kennel Club which strongly wants the bill to pass without the amendments, disagreed. "I don’t know that anybody has been intimidated,'' he said. He explained that he didn't want to bring up amendments that had never been heard before.

Haridopolos said "if you didn't like the bill, you could have filed an amendment and some people choose to file late-filed amendments and I choose to let those late-filed amendments to be introduced. ...This has been the most open Senate with multiple hearings for any individual who wanted it. So we're going ot vote on this so we can focus on other issues." He then offered to bring the amendments back, or postpone the bill until they were ready to address the amendments again. No one raised his hand.

Ironically, Senate leaders an hour earlier, agreed to attach a growth management bill to the conforming bill on the budget, which had never been heard in the Senate, against the objections of Latvala. The conforming bill cannot be amended and is an take-it-or-leave it option for senators.