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Telemarketers bid for job of promoting state House

Details remain secret, but the bid winner would send recorded messages from legislators to constituents.

By STEVE BOUSQUET, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 5, 2003

TALLAHASSEE -- A dozen telemarketing firms, including three in the Tampa area, want a state contract to blanket Floridians' homes with recorded messages as part of House Speaker Johnnie Byrd's plan to promote the House.

But details of Byrd's plan are still secret.

The House on Tuesday refused to release the telemarketers' plans and costs. The deadline to apply was 5 p.m. Monday.

Aides to Byrd cited a public records exemption that allows such bids to be kept secret until a contract is awarded or 10 days after the proposals are opened, whichever comes first.

Assistant Attorney General Pat Gleason, considered an expert on public records matters, said the exemption probably applies to this proposal. It was designed to prevent a company from acquiring inside knowledge about competitors before a contract is awarded, she said.

Byrd has repeatedly called for greater openness in Tallahassee. In his hometown of Plant City a week ago, Byrd said: "People should know what goes on in Tallahassee. There's nothing we should do there that can't stand the light of day." He has assembled a public relations staff much larger than his predecessors'.

The Florida companies seeking the contract are Alexander Financial Group of Seffner, Xpedite Systems of Tampa, Inteleservices of Tampa, the Broadcast Team of Ormond Beach, Emergency Communications Network of Ormond Beach, Global Marketing Research Services of Melbourne and Prosodie Interactive of Fort Lauderdale.

The House also received proposals from companies in Washington, D.C.; St. Paul, Minn.; Lilburn, Ga.; Richmond, Va.; and Longmont, Colo.

The House issued a four-page "request for information" on Jan. 21, offering to pay for "recorded calls from a member (of the Legislature) to selected constituents in the member's legislative district to deliver a specific message."

The program's goal is "to better inform constituents about the important work being done in Tallahassee by the Florida House of Representatives." No price tag was specified, but a successful vendor would have to be able to deliver "120 messages simultaneously," one for every House member.

The proposal also calls for a mechanism for legislators to record messages that would blanket the homes of constituents, and an option that allows voters to register their views.

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