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Sen. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, debates a bill to expand the Gardiner Scholarship Program for children with disabilities on the Senate floor Friday, May 5, 2017 at the Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla. (Photo by Phil Sears)

Influence

Darryl Rouson files constitutional amendment extending lobbying ban

State Sen. and Constitution Revision Commissioner Darryl Rouson has filed a proposed constitutional amendment extending the state’s lobbying ban on former lawmakers and other elected officials from two to six years.

The amendment language was posted late Wednesday on the commission’s website.

The extended ban, however, would apply only “to those individuals who were members of the legislature or who were statewide elected officers at any time after November 6, 2018.”

If added to the state constitution, a 6-year lobbying ban would be the longest in the nation, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. But it previously has raised constitutional concerns over free speech and restraint of trade among critics.

Rouson, a St. Petersburg Democrat, is one of GOP House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s nine appointees to the commission, which convenes every 20 years to review and suggest changes to Florida’s governing document.

Rouson was elected to the Senate last year after serving in the House of Representatives from 2008-16.

Extending the lobbying ban has been a priority of Corcoran’s since his September 2015 designation speech.

That was when Corcoran, whose brother Michael is a prominent lobbyist, first called for a constitutional amendment banning “any state elected official from lobbying the legislative or executive branch for a period of six years.”

“We must close the revolving door between the Legislature and the lobby corps,” Corcoran said. “We need to restore the distance between those who seek to influence the laws and those of us who make the laws.”

Corcoran had once singled out healthcare lobbyists in Tallahassee during closing remarks on the budget, calling them “Gucci-loafing, shoe-wearing special interest powers.”

He later rewrote the House Rules to say that a “lobbyist who was a member of the Legislature at any time after November 8, 2016, may not lobby the House for a period of 6 years following vacation of office as a member of the Legislature.”

This past Legislative Session, the House passed an lobbying-ban extension bill (HB 7003) by a 110-3 vote. It too would have applied “only to those individuals who were members of the Legislature after November 8, 2016, or who were statewide elected officers after November 8, 2016.”

The measure later died in the Senate.

Larry Metz, the Yalaha Republican who chairs the House’s Public Integrity and Ethics Committee, has said he thought a longer ban would withstand legal attack because it addresses only paid lobbying.

The commission can place amendments directly on the 2018 statewide ballot, but they still must be OK’d by 60 percent of voters to be added to Florida’s constitution.

Written By

Jim Rosica is the Tallahassee-based Senior Editor for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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