The ‘revolving door’ of elected officials and lobbyists could soon get jammed.
A proposed constitutional amendment that would mandate a six-year lobbying ban on all elected officeholders, agency heads and judges cleared the Florida Constitution Revision Commission in a 30-4 vote on Monday.
If approved by 60 percent of voters in November, public officers will be barred from lobbying before local, state and federal governments for the duration of the ban, which begins when the officer leaves their post.
The amendment (Proposal 6007) contains drafted language of the ethics provisions provided in Commissioner Don Gaetz‘ Proposal 39. Unlike other proposals, the ethics package will appear by itself on the ballot.
Also included in the amendment is a constitutional mandate for officeholders to not abuse their power to receive a “disproportionate benefit” for themselves, their relatives or their clients and business interests. It leaves the Florida Commission on Ethics to decide how to define “disproportionate benefit.”
Former state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, who began working this year at lobbying firm Ballard Partners, spoke against the proposed amendment.
The provisions, Diaz said, could prevent elected officials from advocating to change bad policy. Genuine legislative efforts could be misconstrued as working on behalf of an outside client’s interest.
He also expressed concern over codifying sweeping ethics reforms in the constitution. It could be accomplished by the Legislature, he said.
“My fear is that this bill tries to accomplish so much that if there are any issues with it, we’re going to have a very difficult time having a constitutional amendment to fix whatever loopholes some court somewhere will find,” Diaz said.
Commissioner Frank Kruppenbacher disagreed with Diaz. A former member of the Florida Commission on Ethics, Kruppenbacher spoke fondly of the commission, and said its rule-making process will result in effective policy because members work closely with affected parties, including elected officials.
“They don’t go to extremes,” Kruppenbacher said of the would-be rule-making body. “They try to figure out how to interpret things in a way that achieves the goal of protecting the integrity of the public and the people in the elected bodies.”