A bill further restricting judges from lobbying in the years after they leave public service passed its final House committee Thursday.
HB 7003, sponsored by Tampa Republican Rep. Traci Koster, passed the House Judiciary Committee with unanimous support. The legislation would extend, from two years to six years, the time which judges and justices must wait after leaving the bench before lobbying legislators and other statewide elected officials.
The change also would prohibit them from lobbying government agencies for compensation or lobbying the Legislature on such things as policies, appropriations and contracts. Penalties under the measures would include fines up to $10,000 and forfeiting money earned from illegally lobbying. Violators also could receive public censure or reprimand.
A bill (HB 7001) that places similar restrictions on Florida lawmakers also is working its way through committees. The pair of bills follow a measure (HB 7009) passed during the 2020 Legislative Session to carry out a prior part of the 2018 constitutional amendment that covered public officials and the private sector. The first part of the amendment took effect on New Year’s Eve 2020.
The other parts of the amendment aren’t set to become law until Dec. 31, 2022. Similarly, the bills wouldn’t take effect until that date.
The Florida Commission on Ethics would be asked to investigate and determine whether former officials violated the lobbying restrictions.
In a budget workshop in October, commissioners on the ethics panel agreed to ask lawmakers to maintain the current funding level, which amounts to $2.7 million. However, Commissioner Don Gaetz raised concerns the team is understaffed, making it challenging to eat into the existing accumulation of ethics cases that will only grow as the lobbying amendment continues taking effect.
“In my conversations with Senate leadership this past week,” Gaetz said in October, “I believe our workload will increase based on where at least some in the Legislature, in the leadership, think that implementation will go.”
There is no matching legislation in the Senate yet.