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GOP pre-session plan: Party this weekend at Hard Rock

Universal studios Florida's Republican leaders may be in for one of the most difficult sessions of their legislative careers but this weekend they're ready to rock at Universal Studios and the Seminole Tribe's Hard Rock Cafe in Orlando.

The weekend-long event is being sponsored by the Republican Party of Florida which is parlaying the gathering of Florida's legislators into a fundraiser. Lobbyists, lawmakers and their families are invited to join VIP tours of Islands of Adventure & Universal Studios on Saturday morning, dine at lunch and enjoy a dinner reception and "Mardi Gras Celebration Parade" in the evening.

After dinner, they'll be escorted to a "VIP viewing of the Pat Benatar Concert.''

Incoming House Speaker Dean Cannon of Orlando believes the event is fine, even as lawmakers debate stripping the state budget of more services and jobs. "The fact we are doing fundraising to support our members is appropriate,'' he said. "This promises to be a a particularly challenging session and we want our spouses and children to have a brief chance to fellowship before we embark on the 60-day session.''

Cannon said he is sensitive to the economic climate and that's why he cancelled all social events related to his designation on Monday as speaker designate. "We are well aware this is not a time to celebrate, it is a time to get to work,'' he said.