DADE CITY — Despite an $83,000 shortfall in its elderly nutrition program and a possible increase in the property tax rate, Pasco County commissioners decided a lobbyist isn't an expense they want to forgo.
Commissioners voted Tuesday to begin negotiations with Southern Strategy Group, a firm represented locally by Shawn Foster, a former aide of U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis who also worked for Mike Fasano when he was a state senator. He currently serves as a lobbyist for the Hernando County Commission.
The firm would replace Slater Bayliss, a former aide to ex-Gov. Jeb Bush who now works for the Advocacy Group.
Commissioners have set aside $50,000 for lobbying efforts in Tallahassee, but they told staff to work to secure a less expensive deal. An agreement will come back before the board for final approval.
The vote comes after some commissioners questioned the need for someone to represent them before the Legislature, given that the delegation includes current House Speaker Will Weatherford, Rep. Richard Corcoran, due to become the next House speaker, as well as state Sen. Wilton Simpson, who is a candidate for Senate president.
"I do think we need (a lobbyist)," Commissioner Henry Wilson Jr. said. "We were up there (in Tallahassee) for a day and we saw how busy they were. Yes, they are the representatives of our county, but they're also state senators and state representatives dealing with statewide issues."