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First Day Without Freebies for Florida Legislators

It didn't appear any elected officials went hungry. At Andrews, the downtown café that sits in the shadow of the state Capitol, the lunch business was normal, but the meal ban was the talk of more than a few lunch time conversations. One thing is clear: making lawmakers pick up their own tab has restaurant owners on edge.

Jack Penrod, restaurant manager, says, “I think it’s going to affect the parties and, you know, the bigger events, so today I’m expecting normal business.”

From the posh Governor's Club to Clyde’s, a favorite watering hole, downtown Tallahassee was empty of elected legislators. Not only are the one-on-one freebies from special interests gone, so are the big events like “Miami Day,” which features a giant paella, or “Free Vegetables From Palm Beach Day.”

Tallahassee area lawmakers want the ban revisited for economic reasons.

Sen. Al Lawson, (D) Tallahassee, says, "I would say millions of dollars that normally flow through the economy while the Legislature is in session will not come.”

One of the questions being asked is whether lawmakers can accept a free lunch from a school cafeteria when they’re visiting. Rules implementing this new law are still being worked out.

While free lunches and dinners may be out for elected officials, one high powered lobbyist says the ban didn't keep him from schmoozing Sunday night, only this time the tables were turned; the senator picked up the tab.

There’s been so much confusion over the ban on freebies that the Florida House of Representatives is hosting a seminar Tuesday to explain the new rules to state lawmakers and their staffs.


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