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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

WaterColor: a lobby-free zone

19

November

Two years ago, a number of high-profile lobbyists had primo access to House Republicans during the inaugural retreat at WaterColor, the secluded beach resort in Ray Sansom's back yard.

This time, lobbyists are banned.

It's part of now-Speaker Sansom's goal to cultivate team building and focus on policy discussion. It also helps remove some of the controversy surrounding the expensive getaway, held during an economic crisis. The Republican Party of Florida is picking up the tab for about 150 people, including 74 GOP House members. (Lobbyists, of course, are welcome to make contributions that would cover the expense.)

"We're not here to be lobbied," Sansom said in an interview. "We're here to think."

Members are now getting a lesson on decorum from Speaker Pro Tem Larry Cretul. Amid his advice: Remember there is a public gallery filled with people with cameras and recording devices. "The folks can be your friends or they might not be your friends," he said. "Remember, as I say, the world is watching."

Sansom emphasized that message. Imagine, he said, if someone with keen interest in a bill turns on the TV to see a rep laughing at his BlackBerry. "It's vital that the less walking around, the less talking ... it looks very respectful the more we listen to the debate."

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[Last modified: Tuesday, September 14, 2010 5:48pm]

    

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