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House committee sends pair of ethics bills to chamber floor

The House Government Accountability Committee approved a pair of bills Wednesday that would add a long list of ethics and reporting requirements into Florida law.

HB 479, sponsored by Republican Rep. Larry Metz, would require many agencies to establish internal controls to prevent “fraud, waste and abuse,” force cities and counties to post their proposed budgets online and would require local government auditors to determine whether a city’s or county’s annual financial report match financial statements, among other things.

The committee also voted unanimously in favor if HB 7021, also sponsored by Metz, which would require city and county elected officials be held to the same financial disclosure rules as state lawmakers if the local governments they represent bring in more than $10 million in revenue in three consecutive years.

Unlike lawmakers, however, the rule would only apply to officials once they are in office, instead of during a campaign. That change came about through an amendment put forward by Metz and approved by the committee.

That bill would also create a statewide registry of local government lobbyists.

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Boca Raton Democrat Emily Slosberg also offered but ultimately withdrew an amendment to the bill that would make it a third-degree felony for candidates or their surrogates to enter the home of a vote-by-mail voter to intimidate them or solicit them to vote a certain way.

The amendment was inspired by a Palm Beach Post report that found Palm Beach County Commissioner Mack Bernard and state Rep. Al Jacquet had entered the home of voters and in some cases had their campaign staff hand-deliver completed mail-in ballots.

Both HB 479 and HB 7021 are now ready for a floor vote in the House.

Written By

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for Florida Politics. He is a former editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and business correspondent at The Hollywood Reporter. Wilson, a University of Florida alumnus, covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools and The Florida Current prior to joining Florida Politics.

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