State Politics

No such thing as free lunch for lawmakers

TALLAHASSEE — Florida lawmakers won’t be able to take free meals from lobbyists any time soon.

A Senate panel Thursday voted down a bill that would have loosened up the state’s 3-year-old gift ban. It would have allowed lobbyists to pick up the tab for wining and dining lawmakers as long as the meal did not cost more than $20.

Some legislators said the ban has harmed restaurants in the state capital and kept lawmakers from attending events with local voters where food is served.

But Sen. J.D. Alexander, a Lake Wales Republican and chairman of the committee that killed the bill, said it was hard to justify letting legislators get free meals while the state is getting hit by a recession.

Workers’ compensation

A bill that would restore a cap on attorney’s fees in workers’ compensation cases is ready for a final vote in the House.

After an amendment was defeated, the measure (HB 903) sponsored by Rep. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, was set for a floor vote in the House next week. Although it’s one of Speaker Larry Cretul’s top priorities, a similar Senate bill (SB 2072) is still in the committee process there as the regular session moves towards its midpoint next week.

If passed, the legislation would trump a Florida Supreme Court decision last October that struck down the cap on lawyer fees. The justices ruled attorneys should be paid reasonably for representing injured workers.

— Herald wire reports