March 18th, 2010 10:58 AM by Sherry Lee
Palm Beach County’s annual Tallahassee schmoozefest kicks off Tuesday night as a contingent of local community leaders heads north to try to win the favor of state legislators.
Palm Beach County Days is a lobbying trip timed with the start of the 60-day state Legislative session. The registration list this year includes 130 local politicians, business leaders and representatives of interest groups that will host parties, put on exhibits and meet with legislators to draw attention to a host of issues.
Issues of interest for the group include fending off the local effects of expected state budget cuts and potential changes to state growth management laws.
Local leaders are also supposed to get a meeting with Gov. Charlie Crist to discuss concerns about The Acreage cancer cluster and the rehab costs of dealing with defective Chinese drywall.
Events on the itinerary include a reception Tuesday night in a hospitality room above Andrew’s Capital Grill, exhibits in the Capitol Rotunda Wednesday, a catered reception Wednesday evening in the Capitol Courtyard and a gathering later that night at the bar at the Aloft Hotel – where most of the group is staying.
Private sponsors – including AT&T, Bethesda Healthcare Systems, Palm Beach Kennel Club, Florida Atlantic University and the Palm Beach County Classroom Teachers Association – contributed a total of $43,000 to pay for the festivities.
Local taxpayers pick up the travel costs for county employees and elected officials, including the $159-per-night hotel rooms. That includes almost 30 county employees or elected officials, including County Commissioners Burt Aaronson, Jeff Koons, Karen Marcus and Priscilla Taylor. Elected officials from local cities and universities are also making the trip.
This year’s event is expected to be a toned-down version of years past.
Just a few years ago, Palm Beach County’s annual legislative swing was a three-day affair featuring ice sculptures, vodka slides and a $200,000 budget. The economic downturn and criticism of wining and dining elected officials resulted in the more toned-down event.