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Spending big on lobbyists in Florida

Last year's biggest spenders on lobbying . . .

AT&T, the sugar industry and Honeywell International were among the biggest spenders in lobbying the Florida Legislature last year. All told, companies and organizations spent more than $130 million attempting to get their message to lawmakers. Below is a look at the companies, how much they spent, whom they hired and the issues they care about.

AT&T — $1,455,000

Issues: The telecommunications giant has been pushing for a reduction or elimination of Florida's communication services tax, one of the highest in the nation. Another key issue is the tax on prepaid phones, currently subject to sales tax but exempt from state and local communications taxes. The Florida Department of Revenue has argued that prepaid phones should be subject to the communication services tax — a move that AT&T and other carriers adamantly oppose. Non-contract, prepaid calling plans are one of the fastest-growing smartphone and cellphone segments in the country. Lobbyists: The 33 firms on retainer include the Adams Group; the Advocacy Group @ Cardenas Partners; Becker & Poliakoff; Cruz & Co. ; Fowler White Boggs; Frank Meiners Governmental Consultants; Gomez Barker Associates; Greenberg Traurig; Pittman Law Group; Pollock & Associates; Ronald L. Book P. A. ; Smith Bryan & Myers; Spearman Management; Aleksander Group; Moya Group

United States Sugar Corp. — $983,000

Issues: U. S. Sugar's big interest last year was the Legislature's rewrite of the 1994 Everglades Forever Act. While the 2013 legislation extends the $25-per-acre tax on sugar cane growers to 2026, 10 years past the point at which it was due to be reduced, the sugar Industry secured a timetable for a gradual reduction of the tax. The tax will drop from $20 to $15 between 2027 and 2035 and will hold at $10 per acre in 2036. This year, the company's lobbyists are in a watch-and-wait mode as lawmakers begin crafting a statewide water policy.

Lobbyists: Ballard Partners; Colodny Fass Talenfeld Karlinsky Abate & Webb; Cruz & Co. ; Fearings & Smith; Floridian Partners; Fowler White Boggs; Gunster; Heffley & Associates; Jefferson Monroe Consulting; Leary Government Affairs Consultants; Metz Husband & Daughton; Smith Bryan & Myers; Mayernick Group; Timmins Consulting; VancoreJones Communications; Whitis Consulting

Honeywell International — $777,000

Issues: The Fortune 100 company that invents and manufactures technologies related to safety, security and energy employs 132,000 worldwide and 2,700 in Florida. Lobbyist Frank Tsamoutales says his work for the company is focused primarily on promoting Honeywell's "Energy Savings Performance" contracting on the state and local level. ESPs allow organizations to fund facility improvements through energy and operating savings over 10 to 20 years without impacting budgets or requiring additional taxpayer dollars. "Their customer strategy includes state agencies, counties, cities, school boards — so we represent them seeking that kind of work. "

Lobbyist: Tsamoutales Strategies

Dosal Tobacco — $710,000

Issues: The Miami-based manufacturer of the popular "305's" brand of cigarettes has fought off attempts by competitors and antismoking crusaders to get lawmakers to impose a fee on its cigarettes. Dosal's rivals contend that the small cigarette manufacturer operates at an unfair advantage because it wasn't part of an $11. 3-billion settlement in 1997 between the state and large tobacco companies. Dosal, founded by Cuban immigrants, argues that retroactively imposing a fee against the company is unfair and would harm its business.

Lobbyists: Advantage Consulting Team; Bascom Communications & Consulting; Capital City Consulting; Colodny Fass Talenfeld Karlinsky Abate & Webb; Foley & Lardner; GrayRobinson; Leath Consulting; McCray & Associates; Pennington, Preiguez & Weems; Richard Watson & Associates; Smith Bryan & Myers; Moya Group; Rubin Group

Florida Crystals Corp. — $830,000

Issues: Lobbyists for the south Florida agricultural giant played a key role in the 2013 fight over Everglades cleanup legislation. Florida Crystals also succeeded in getting lawmakers to pass a measure blocking a lawsuit filed by the Florida Wildlife Federation over a state-approved lease agreement that allows Florida Crystals and A. Duda and Sons to farm land that drains into the Everglades for another 30 years.

Lobbyists: Advantage Consulting Team; Anfield Consulting; Ben Parks and Associates; Corcoran & Johnston; David R. Custin & Associates; Fess Consulting; Gentry & Associates; Henry Dean & Associates; Hopping Green & Sams; Fiorentino Group; P5 Group; Rubin Group; WREN Group

Florida Justice Association — $640,000

Issues: The powerful trial lawyers group engages in regular battle each session against the Florida Chamber, the insurance industry and other special interests. In 2013, the group was successful in fending off reforms to the state's bad faith laws, which allows individuals to sue their insurance company if they believe the insurer acted fraudulently or in "bad faith" while defending or settling a claim. The association also killed provisions of a reform bill that would have allowed health care providers to require patients to sign arbitration agreements capping economic and non-economic damages and giving immunity to hospitals for negligence. Another provision that was removed would have raised the burden of proof in medical malpractice cases to "clear and convincing" for patients who were injured or died needlessly because they were not given proper or reasonable diagnostic test — a standard that the association says would be almost impossible to prove. The trial lawyers were unable to thwart changes to the state's expert evidence statute. After years of prompting by the Florida Chamber, lawmakers replaced Florida's "Frye" expert evidence standard with the "Daubert" standard, which is used in all federal courts and many state courts. Under Frye, judges had merely to determine whether the theory or technique of the experts was "generally accepted" by experts in their particular field. Under Daubert, judges are responsible for ensuring that expert evidence presented in court is relevant, reliable and based on sound science.

Lobbyists: ADF Consulting; Anfield Consulting; Florida Capitol Advocates; Mabry and Associates; Nabors Giblin & Nickerson; Prieguez & Weems; Reginald Garcia; Wofford Hawkins & Magdaleno

Seminole Tribe of Florida — $614,500

Issues: Under a revenue-sharing compact with the state, the Seminole Tribe has exclusive rights to offer Las Vegas-style slot machines and card games like blackjack and baccarat at its Florida casinos. With the card game component of the compact set to expire next year, the Seminole Tribe has begun renegotiating the compact with Gov. Rick Scott's administration. The negotiations come as lawmakers consider revamping the state's gaming regulations and decide whether to allow an expansion of gaming in the state.

Lobbyists: Dutko Poole McKinley; Florida Consultants; Greenberg Traurig; Jack M. Skelding Jr. ; Moya Group

Associated Industries of Florida — $590,000

Issues: The Tallahassee-based business lobby advocates on a broad range of issues for its membership, including taxation, water, gaming and health care. This year, AIF is pushing for a reduction in the motor vehicle license tax, a reduction of the sales tax on commercial energy consumption and a reduction of the state communications services tax. The group also supports a "competitive bid" process to allow a limited number of integrated resort casinos in the state and advocates for more health care cost transparency, an increase in telemedicine services and a reduction of health care regulations that prevent qualified health care professionals from working to the full scope of their abilities. The group also recently formed AIF Florida H20 Coalition to focus on comprehensive water policy in Florida.

Lobbyists: Advocacy Group @ Cardenas Partners; Capital City Consulting; Carlton Fields; Donald D. Brown; Floridian Partners; Frank Meiners Governmental Consultants; Greenberg Traurig; John H. Franch; Littlejohn Mann & Associates; Pittman Law Group; Ramba Consulting Group; Rathbun & Associates; Rutledge Evenia; Strategos Public Affairs; Horne Group; Mayernick Group

Florida Hospital Association —$585,000

Issues: The FHA's primary focus for the past two years has been trying to get lawmakers to accept federal funds to expand Medicaid. The group, which represents 185 hospitals and health systems, is also pushing for the adoption of nationally recognized telemedicine standards and a new law that would allow nurse practitioners more flexibility and autonomy to carry out their duties. The association opposes deregulating trauma centers, repealing red light cameras, doing away with the certificate of need process, mandates that hospitals contract with Medicaid HMOs and further cuts to Medicaid hospital payments.

Lobbyists: Cruz & Co. ; Floridian Partners; Greenberg Traurig; Holland & Knight; Johnson & Blanton; Ronald R. Richmond; Smith Bryan & Myers

Florida Power & Light — $545,000

Issues: Last year, FPL and other utilities fought off legislative attempts to repeal the state's advanced nuclear recovery cost laws, which allow the utilities to charge rate payers for nuclear projects prior to construction. Lawmakers did, however, impose new hurdles on electric companies before they can collect fees for preconstruction costs of nuclear power plants. Prior to constructing a nuclear plant, utilities must prove that the project is feasible and that costs are reasonable. There are also additional levels of review required by the Florida Public Service Commission if the project runs into delays or cost overruns.

Lobbyists: Ballard Partners; bg & associates international; Dutko Poole McKinley; Ericks Consultants; Floridian Partners; Gomez Barker Associates; Johnson & Blanton; Louis B. Parrish Consulting; Paul P. Sanford & Associates; Radey Thomas Yon & Clark; Mayernick Group; Rubin Group

The state's four largest electric utility companies registered, on average, one lobbyist for every two state legislators from 2007-13.

U. S. Sugar and Florida Power & Light, two of the state's top spenders, hired Brian Ballard to do their bidding.

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