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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

How not to lobby, Pt. 2



A few weeks ago, we brought you a story about how not to lobby. Today brings another tip: When offering a “courtesy amendment” to a lawmaker on behalf of a bill sponsor, make sure the sponsor is actually pushing the amendment.

Lobbyist Matt Blair learned that lesson this week when he gave a courtesy amendment to Sen. Jack Latvala for the growth management bill sponsored by Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton. (These changes are all moot now as lawmakers have attached growth management changes as a "take it or leave it" option along with the budget.)

Lawmakers run “courtesy amendments” all the time. If a bill sponsor wants to change their bill but they aren’t a member of the committee that’s considering it, they find a member to sponsor their amendment. Only Blair’s amendment made it easier for his client, Angelo’s Aggregate Materials to build a controversial landfill in East Pasco over objections from county officials. Latvala made it clear he wanted no part of  that fight. (Blair did not return a message seeking comment. Jake Varn, a longtime Tallahassee lawyer who crafted the amendment, says it's prospective in nature and wouldn't help Angelo's.)

“I got duped,” said Latvala, a Republican who for years represented portions of Pasco. “I have very good friends on the Pasco County commission. There is no way in hell that I would ever, ever do anything to try to interfere with them on that issue.”

Blair works for a firm headed by Michael Corcoran of Lutz. Corcoran’s brother is Rep. Richard Corcoran, the Trinity Republican recently tapped as a future House speaker.

Latvala said Blair “misrepresented the facts” by offering him the “craftily written” amendment. “The guy’s been banned from my office for as long as I am here,” Latvala said, adding that Michael Corcoran has stopped by his office daily to apologize.

[Last modified: Friday, April 29, 2011 4:09pm]


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