It looked bad, traveling out of state for a weeklong conference at taxpayer expense.
Awful even, with a huge state budget deficit and orders that local governments curb spending to make way for property tax cuts. So state Rep. Betty Reed, D-Tampa, went to the people.
"I called up about 10 constituents and stopped people on the street," Reed said. "They said if it helps you to govern, then you need to go."
Three days into the National Conference of State Legislatures in Boston, Reed felt validated. "It's not a junket," she insisted, stepping out of a Tuesday afternoon seminar on leadership. "This is important."
Many of the 40 or so other Florida lawmakers here this week made the same case, pointing to the vast conference agenda, the ideas they came away with, even handwritten meeting notes as evidence of a worthwhile expense.
But they also spent time schmoozing, traipsing around Fenway Park and the historic city. Through it all, Florida lobbyists battled for face time, though ethics laws appear to have reduced the number of lobbyists .
All told, the total cost to taxpayers will be roughly $70,000, which includes accommodations for about 20 legislative staffers.