Just another political battle masquerading as a lawsuit?
Florida's House of Representatives filed a lawsuit late Friday accusing the Florida Lottery of illegally signing a long-term contract for ticket sales, escalating a feud between House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Gov. Rick Scott a little more than a week before the legislative session begins.
Corcoran's decision to file the lawsuit represents a head-on confrontation with an agency overseen by Scott. In response, the governor's office slammed Corcoran, an attorney, as "a trial lawyer".
The House's lawsuit contends that the Lottery's contract with IGT Global Solutions Corp. is illegal because it spends more money than the Legislature has set aside for ticket machines in the current budget.
It asks a Leon County circuit court to find that Lottery Secretary Tom Delacenserie didn't have the authority to sign the deal, and that he should "take all steps necessary to avoid that contract."
The House says state law requires an agency to receive permission from the Legislature before signing a contract that would spend more money in an area of the budget — even in future years — than lawmakers have already allocated for that area.
"The Lottery, and any other agency for that matter, does not have the right to obligate the taxpayers of Florida by even a penny beyond what the people's elected Representatives say they can," Corcoran, R-Land O' Lakes, said in a statement issued by his office Friday. "This lawsuit filed today is about the rule of law and the protection of taxpayers."
Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz blasted the filing without responding specifically to the legal allegations in the lawsuit.
"The Florida Lottery's record sales have led to historic contributions to our state's education system and the House sues? Not shocking to have another lawsuit from a trial lawyer," Schutz said in an email.
The dispute stems from a contract that Delacenserie signed in September. The contract with IGT ran until 2028, and was essentially immediately extended to 2031 under an option.
The deal also changed the way in which the vendor was paid. In the past, the Lottery has paid a fixed amount to deploy and administer each machine. Under the new deal, IGT will get a slice of the sales of tickets, machines and other services.
Based on projected sales, that would boost the amount the Lottery needs to pay for the contract by $12.9 million in the budget year that begins July 1, according to the House. The suit says that bucks the entire reason that multi-year state contracts are limited to begin with.
"By doing so, the law protects against executive agencies trying to force the Legislature's hand in the budgeting process," the filing contends. "It also protects against agencies unleashing the lobbyists of private vendors to interfere with that process. This in turn ensures budgeting transparency and predictability."
The lawsuit comes amid an increasingly acrimonious clash between Corcoran, who has shaken the Tallahassee establishment with his hard-charging approach, and Scott.
The two men have already engaged in a war of words over economic incentives for businesses, with Corcoran arguing they amount to "corporate welfare" and Scott saying that zeroing out the funds as Corcoran wants would cost Florida jobs.
Both men are expected to run for higher office in 2018. Scott is widely believed to be eyeing a challenge to U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, while Corcoran is reportedly considering a run for governor.