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Alexis Lambert's request for reasonable changes to the gift ban didn't make the cut for 2020.

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Gift ban changes ready for Senate floor

A move to help sick workers is ready for Senate floor.

Changes are coming for the state’s gift ban, and a beloved veteran attorney’s struggle with cancer is the reason why.

Senate Budget Chief Rob Bradley’s SB 1490 will allow non-elected state employees to “accept any gift or compensation, regardless of value” if it is applied directly toward the expenses incurred from treating their or their child’s “serious disease or illness.”

The bill cleared its final Senate committee of reference (Rules) on Wednesday. It is now ready for the Senate floor.

Bradley noted that “catastrophic illness can put financial strain on an individual or a family.”

The natural instinct, he said, is to help. But the gift ban laws preclude such help for state employees.

Gifts and compensation directly linked to care or treatment of “serious disease or illness” would be permissible, but not for elected officials, Bradley said.

Bradley was asked to address the “narrowness” of the bill regarding potential “influence” from potentially nefarious actors.

“The intent of this bill is not to create the proverbial nose under the tent,” Bradley said, saying he was open to discussions on how to reassure legislators, though he would prefer to avoid a re-reference.

Potential “guardrails” may be added before the Senate floor, suggested Sen. Tom Lee, and a potential expansion to spouses may also be contemplated.

The background: Alexis Lambert, an attorney working for the Florida Lottery and previously for the Constitutional Revision Commission, got Stage 3 colon cancer.

Lambert has offered unsparing testimony at previous committee stops, calling cancer a “rich man’s disease” and pointing out that the “average state employee cannot afford to get cancer.

Lambert gave her testimony again, describing a “blur” of doctor’s appointments, “six weeks of chemo radiation … surgery … and 12 weeks of maintenance chemo.”

A month of home health care: also non-optional.

“Losing my hair was the least of my problems,” Lambert said, describing the shutdown of her reproductive system as part of cancer treatment.

The Florida League of Cities and James Madison Institute supported the bill at previous stops.

The House bill (HB 1435), sponsored by Rep. Jayer Williamson, has one committee stop left before a floor vote.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.

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