Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Press group in talks to take over state lobbyist registration

TALLAHASSEE — The Legislature's latest privatization effort is drawing attention from lobbyists and the news media, and for very different reasons.

In a little-noticed action, lawmakers rewrote their rules last session and added a provision to outsource the Office of Lobbyist Registration.

But months earlier, e-mails show, a private, for-profit group, the Florida Press Association, was in informal talks with a key legislative staffer on the subject. The group lobbies on behalf of newspapers, whose reporters are among the most intense lobbyist-watchers in the state.

The lobbyist registration office has only three workers, but its output is monitored closely by everyone who follows state government because it records registrations of thousands of lobbyists and their clients, as well as compensation reports lobbyists have been required to file since 2006.

The mountain of data is stored in an aging mainframe computer that legislative technical experts say costs $2 million a year to maintain. The idea is to shut off the computer and hire a private firm that can modernize the lobbyist website for less money while turning a profit.

Privatizing lobbyist reporting was in part the brainchild of Steve MacNamara, who at the time was chief of staff to Senate President Mike Haridopolos. MacNamara is now Gov. Rick Scott's chief of staff.

"Steve's the person who told me he was thinking about it originally," said Talbot (Sandy) D'Alemberte, a former Florida State University president and a registered lobbyist and attorney for the Florida Press Association. "I told him I thought it made a hell of a lot of sense."

Last December, the press group's general counsel, Sam Morley, began lobbying for the project in a series of e-mails to MacNamara.

MacNamara declined to comment for this article. He and D'Alemberte are long-time friends.

Dean Ridings, president of the Florida Press Association, said his group would make the service more user-friendly by putting lobbyist information online immediately. Under the current system, information is updated once a day. Ridings called the current website "cumbersome" and envisioned interactive computer kiosks where lobbyists could update their registrations and the public could view the data "in real time."

The Florida Press Association employs a team of five lobbyists, including Ridings.

The group has in recent years blocked proposed legislation that would allow local governments' legal notices to be posted on websites, rather than in newspapers. The change would have reduced industry revenues at a time of great change and stress.

Rep. Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne, who sponsored the bill last session, complimented the Florida Press Association for its willingness to work with him on a compromise proposal to be considered next year.

But Workman said he thought it was a bad idea for a firm with lobbyists to be in charge of lobbyist registration.

"They should either recuse themselves or get rid of their lobbyists," Workman said.

Another business interested in seeking the outsourcing venture is Lobbytools, a legislative information and news service. President Sarah Iarussi said she wanted to know more about what the Legislature wants.

The Senate has crafted an invitation to negotiate or ITN, a form of bid that allows vendors to shape the proposal, rather than merely comply with state-issued requirements. Under an ITN, the state is not obligated to accept the lowest-price proposal. The House is reviewing the ITN.

A spokeswoman for House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, Katherine Betta, said the House's goal is to "retire the mainframe" and have a new vendor in place by July 2012.

Steve Bousquet can be reached at bousquet@sptimes.com or (850) 224-7263.

Press group in talks to take over state lobbyist registration 07/28/11 [Last modified: Thursday, July 28, 2011 10:18pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Florida's school grades improve as educators get the hang of a new system

    Testing

    Following a trend, Florida's school grades showed strong gains in the third year after the state changed its grading formula and the standardized tests that students take every year.

    After finding out earlier Wednesday that her school went from a low C to an A,  Bear Creek Elementary principal Willette Houston celebrates with her students in the YMCA After School program at the school in St. Petersburg. Houston is giving a high five to rising fifth grader Jonaven Viera. Rising 4th grader Jonathan Cafaro is in foreground with his back to camera. [CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times]
  2. More charges for Tampa Bay area woman accused of getting pregnant by 11-year-old boy

    Crime

    TAMPA — A woman sexually battered an 11-year-old Brandon boy, got pregnant and raised the baby for three years before a tip led to her arrest, Hillsborough County sheriff's officials said.

    Marissa Mowry, now 25,  had sex as many as 20 times in 2014 with a boy who was 11 when he impregnated her, Hillsborough County detectives allege. [Photo courtesy of Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
  3. Heights Public Market to host two Tampa Bay food trucks

    Business

    TAMPA — The Heights Public Market announced the first two food trucks for its "rotating stall," which will feature new restaurants every four months. Surf and Turf and Empamamas will be rolled out first.

    Heights Public Market is opening this summer inside the Tampa Armature Works building.
[SKIP O'ROURKE   |   Times file photo]

  4. Mariners lose lefty Drew Smyly to Tommy John surgery

    Ml

    SEATTLE — Drew Smyly was the centerpiece to one of Seattle's many offseason moves by general manager Jerry Dipoto. He was a priority acquisition as a proven lefty for the rotation the Mariners believed would thrive pitching at Safeco Field.

    Drew Smyly will undergo Tommy John surgery after being diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament. Seattle announced the diagnosis on Wednesday, ending Smyly's hopes of returning during the 2017 season. [AP photo]
  5. Author Randy Wayne White could open St. Pete's biggest restaurant on the pier

    Food & Dining

    ST. PETERSBURG — The story begins with Yucatan shrimp.

    St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin, pilot Mark Futch, Boca Grande, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, and author and businessman Randy Wayne White,  Sanibel, exit a Maule Super Rocket seaplane after taking a fight around Tampa Bay off the St. Petersburg waterfront, 6/28/17.  White and his business partners are in negotiations with the City of St. Petersburg to build a fourth Doc Ford's Rum Bar & Grille on the approach to the St. Petersburg Pier with a second event space on the pier according to White. The group met near Spa Beach after a ground breaking ceremony for the new pier. "We want to have our business open by the time the pier opens," said White. Other Dr. Ford restaurants are located on Sanibel, Captiva and Ft. Myers Beach. SCOTT KEELER   |   Times