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Paid witnesses called proper

A Senate attorney has concluded that witnesses who were paid to travel to Tallahassee for reapportionment hearings last month didn't violate legislative lobbying rules.

The witnesses included five people whose travel expenses were reimbursed by the Republican Party of Florida and one whose expenses were paid by U.S. Rep. Jim Bacchus, an Orlando Democrat. In addition, two of the Republican-sponsored witnesses, Marguerite Gamble and Naomi Cooper of Daytona Beach, submitted a bill for $500 apiece for "lobbying."

Senate attorney D. Stephen Kahn concluded that none of the payments proved that the witnesses violated lobbying rules. The rules say witnesses who appear on their own behalf don't have to register as lobbyists. Kahn said he thought the witnesses could establish that they were appearing on their own behalf, even though their expenses were paid by others.

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