Lawmakers: Gift ban might end

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - In the interesting world of Florida politics, state lawmakers can't take a free cup of coffee, but they can accept unlimited campaign contributions.

All of that just might change. Lawmakers in Tallahassee are talking about ending unlimited contributions to political committees and raising individual contribution limits from $500 to $10,000.

The gift ban was fueled by abuses such as junkets in Paris and drunken gambling trips to Canada. Lawmakers who have served before and after the ban say what's changed is the ability to get to know one another.

"It has changed dramatically," said Gwen Margolis, a Democrat from Miami Beach.

An eatery in the shadow of the state capitol has survived just fine under the ban. Other landmarks like the Silver Slipper, which once served spaghetti for 65 cents, have vanished since the ban took effect. That's because lawmakers spend three fourths of their time at home. The impact has been felt across the state.

"It affects every community, no doubt about it. When I speak to senators and representatives about this, they can't even go to the Boys and Girls Club," said Andrew Reiss with Andrew's Capital Grill.

Talk of lifting the ban suggests nominal amounts would be allowed to cover something like, for example, a sandwich.

Lobbyist Jack Cory says he socializes just as much as ever with lawmakers. He says the prohibition has hurt nonprofit organizations more than anyone and led to gridlock between the parties.

"The founders of this nation, when they were in Philadelphia, they would always go out after their debates. They would always sit around a pub," said Cory. "They would always have a liter of beer and discuss the issues of the day. We're not having that today, and you're getting much more partisan in the legislature."

Details of any changes are still being worked out.

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