While the 2009 legislative session saw the Florida Legislature passing the lowest number of bills since 1998, the governor will have plenty of opportunities to make people happy or mad (or both) this coming week. A whole host of legislation (with a deadline for gubernatorial action fast approaching) is on the governor’s desk waiting for his return from the holiday weekend. These bills include some of the session’s most controversial and significant proposals: workers compensation attorney’s fees, cigarette taxes, increased motor vehicle fees and taxes, and the budget. The governor can sign, veto, or allow to become law without signature any piece of legislation that comes to his desk. In addition, he can exercise line item veto authority on the budget.
But while taxpayers are waiting and watching for the governor’s actions on bills that could potentially end up costing them more money, lobbyists are sitting safe at home counting their cash. While the legislature was grappling with a $6 billion budget hole, it seems 4 lobbying firms were raking in the money. According to the St. Pete Times, GrayRobinson PA, Ronald L. Book PA, Smith & Ballard, and Southern Strategy Group made more than a million dollars between January and March 2009. Since the two-month legislative session straddled two quarters, lobbyists earned even more money to influence legislators and Crist’s administration during the entire session that ended May 8th.
AT&T hired more than three dozen lobbyists and spent as much as $1 million, more than any other company. U.S. Sugar Corp. spent the second-highest individual sum on lobbyists, up to $476,000. Gambling interests spent a maximum of about $1.3 million on lobbyists, while the energy industry spent about $1.4 million. The tobacco industry spent as much as $689,000.
Many of them will find out this week whether or not their money was well spent.