Bill Would Limit Legislators Freebies From Lobbyists

The House speaker is moving to ban even the smallest gifts to lawmakers, but many think the elected officials themselves should have to follow tougher rules.

The flowers overflowing the desks of lawmakers on the first day of session is just one example of lobbyists pandering for favorable votes. Rep. Frank Peterman supports a bill to crack down on the practice by banning all gifts and making the dark-suited lobbyists who crowd the Capitol’s fourth floor report every meal or drink they buy for a political party.

Rep. Frank Peterman, (D) Tampa, says, "There needs to be some more stop-gap measures put in place because to some degree I think we’ve overdone it, so to speak, as legislators."

But some lawmakers don’t think the measure goes far enough.

Rep. Randy Johnson, (R) Winter Garden, says, "We are the ones who are responsible for our actions. It’s not the lobby corps."

Loranne Ausley agrees it’s not fair to put the burden of reporting everything on the lobbyists, but let legislators off the hook.

Rep. Loranne Ausley, (D) Tallahassee, says, "The issue is us, we’re the ones that are in there making the laws and we’re the ones who should be accountable to the people, and right now we don’t have any reporting responsibility."

Senate President Tom Lee has been pushing the reform effort since last year. Lobbyist Carl Adams doesn’t think this year’s version is fair either.

Lawmakers insist their votes have never been bought by a drink or a meal, but legislative leaders just want to make sure they can’t be rented for awhile.

The reform bill would also require lobbyists to report how much they’re paid for their services. The bill is up for final passage in the House Thursday.