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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

A private pizza party for the House GOP




House Republican leaders got together for a pizza party Tuesday night at Marty Bowen's Tallahassee-area house and talked about state compacts (like gambling), user fees for courts to make up for budget cuts and what to expect in the fourth week of session.

But they say they did not break the law.

"Rules and laws pursuant to the Sunshine law were complied with," said House Speaker Marco Rubio's spokeswoman Jill Chamberlin. "It was an informal social occasion and also an opportunity for (the) speaker to update members and chairs to keep (the) speaker informed on actions in their councils."

Aside from Bowen and Rubio, lawmakers who attended were Frank Attkisson, Aaron Bean, Ellyn Bogdanoff, Dean Cannon, Adam Hasner, Dick Kravitz, Stan Mayfield, Joe Pickens, David Rivera, Ray Sansom and Will Weatherford. Council staff members also showed up.

Chamberlin, citing House rules, said the law was not broken because the Republicans neither agreed "upon formal legislative action that will be taken at a subsequent time" nor did they "take formal legislative action" regarding pending legislation or amendments.

Asked what was discussed Tuesday night, Chamberlin wrote:

-- Rubio reiterated that any claims that "speaker encourages your support for this bill" would come ONLY from him or Bob Ward and rarely.

-- Attkisson wondered if we should revisit the concept of model state compacts, i.e. gambling, Speaker suggested he look into it further.

-- Kravitz said that the house should look into user fees for courts to help make up judicial cuts. Rubio said  go ahead and look at it, might be a good idea but we don't have much time for House and Senate consideration.

-- Speaker talked about 4th week floor agenda and said likely Rules will schedule bills including Crotzer and mortgage brokers on Wednesday afternoon...Special order calendar should have details after Rules meets on Mon.

Chamberlin said Bowen and her husband paid for the dinner and that they would be reimbursed by the Republican Party of Florida.

The meeting, which comes amid the annual "Sunshine week" to celebrate open government, is not the first time the first time the House leaders have faced questions about secret gatherings. Last year, education officials got together without notice and then Republicans met to talk about stem cell research.

In 1987, pizza -- extra cheese and pepperoni -- played a role in a much more serious gathering when legislative leaders, Lt. Gov. Bobby Brantley and J.M. "Mac" Stipanovich, the governor's chief of staff, gathered at a lobbyist's townhouse a few blocks from the Capitol and hatched the ill-fated services tax.

The uproar over the furtive meeting led to open meeting rules now in effect.

[Last modified: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 1:19pm]


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