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Hialeah mayor, state lawmaker, prosecutors to meet to talk maquinitas

Hialeah mayor Carlos Hernández and state representative Carlos Trujillo announced Thursday that they will have a meeting with representatives of the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office to settle their differences on the enforcement of the state law banning video slot machines.

“We will meet with lawyers from the state attorney’s office to analyze the interpretation of the state law banning slot machines,” Hernández told El Nuevo Herald. “This meeting is important to avoid any misinterpretation or whether the issue will have to be revisited in an upcoming session [of the Legislature] to make necessary changes to the law.”

The meeting of Hernández, Trujillo and the attorneys has been tentatively scheduled for Tuesday. The state representative said that he also had a telephone conversation with State Attorney Katherine Fernández-Rundle to agree on the meeting.

A vigorous controversy emerged last week after the Hialeah Police Department announced that slots were being allowed to operate in that city despite the fact that nearly five months ago a state law was passed in Tallahassee declaring them illegal.

The state law, officially labeled HB 155, passed in April after.

Up until May, Hialeah had 2,269 slot machines registered in hundreds of small businesses, generating revenue for the city in the amount of approximately $1.2 million annually.

But Hernández said that in July the legal counsel of the Hialeah police, Hillah Méndez, requested a legal opinion from the state attorney’s office, which responded that in order to establish illegality of the slot machines city authorities must prove the existence of prize payments for users, something that is generally done clandestinely.

The state attorney’s interpretation and the position of the city of Hialeah surprised Trujillo, a Miami Republican who had sponsored the state law.

Trujillo’s criticism prompted a strong reaction from Hernández, who challenged him to organize a raid of slot machines in Hialeah so that he would understand the potential lawsuits that a confiscation would generate if a previous investigation were not conducted on the issue of award payments.

On Thursday, both politicians lowered the volume of their debate.

“It’s always positive to have a dialogue,” Hernández said. “I understand Representative Trujillo’s frustration because the law is being interpreted differently from its original purpose. But I believe he has also understands my frustration as mayor and the problems the enforcement of the law might generate.”

Trujillo said he was sure the meeting will clear all doubts and, if needed, recommendations could be collected to make adjustments to the law.

“I hope that that after our meeting with the state attorney, we can figure out how to enforce the law,” Trujillo said. “I talked to her [the state attorney] yesterday and she is willing to meet and find a solution. This meeting is important because, though I don’t think an adjustment to the law is necessary, that possibility does exist.”

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