State House members are trying to get sweeping ethics changes through the Legislature. Again.
The legislation (HB 1185) sponsored by Republican State Rep. Chuck Brannan of Macclenny would remove restrictions on certain state, university, and community college employees who lobby for their government employer, and prohibit a governmental entity or elected official from using public service announcements to promote themselves during campaigns. It would also discourage public office holders from holding contractual jobs with nonprofits that do business with the government, and would prohibit statewide elected officers and members of the Legislature from soliciting or accepting investment advice from lobbyists.
Former Gov. Rick Scott signed what Integrity Florida hailed as “historic” ethics and campaign reforms into law in 2013. The changes made it easier for the public to access financial disclosure forms and gave the Florida Commission on Ethics new tools to combat public corruption and addressed potential conflicts of interest. The legislature also increased campaign finance limits so candidates could fund their campaigns directly instead of through special interest committees and political parties.
Scott signed additional legislation in 2014 that allows the ethics commission to independently begin ethics investigations when officials don’t file financial reports, requires lobbyist disclosure at the state’s water management districts and mandates annual ethics training for elected city officials.
But since then, the Senate has hampered attempts to pass more ethics reform to the frustration of past House speakers. Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran complained in 2017 that the Senate had “zero interest” in his top legislative priority when he was Speaker.
The House unanimously passed similar ethics reform legislation last year, but it died in the Senate where it never passed its first committee.
The House Public Integrity and Ethics Committee passed it unanimously. The Senate companion (SB 1530) sponsored by State Sen. Dennis Baxley has yet to get a committee hearing.
The committee also passed legislation (HB 814) sponsored by Republican State Rep. Bobby Payne stating that if the surplus funds are disposed of by donation to a charitable organization, the candidate may not be employed by the same charitable organization.