The House has unanimously approved legislation further restricting former officials from lobbying in the years after they leave public service.
The House voted unanimously to pass a pair of bills (HB 7001/HB 7003) that would implement 2018’s Amendment 12, which places business and lobbying restrictions on former lawmakers. Penalties under the measures would include fines up to $10,000 and forfeiting money earned from illegally lobbying. Violators could also receive public censure or reprimand.
Tampa Republican Rep. Traci Koster is carrying both proposals. Both measures passed the House with no questions or debate.
The first measure would extend, from two years to six years, the duration lawmakers and state agency heads must wait after leaving office before lobbying legislators and statewide elected officials. The change would also prohibit public officials, while in office, from lobbying government agencies for compensation or lobbying the Legislature on such things as policies, appropriations and contracts.
The second proposal puts similar prohibitions on former judges and justices.
Both measures passed from the committee unanimously and with no commentary from members or the public.
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 handled public officials and the private sector. The first part of the amendment took effect on New Year’s Eve 2020.
The two parts of the amendment discussed Tuesday aren’t set to become law until Dec. 31, 2022. Similarly, the bills wouldn’t take effect until that date.
St. Augustine Republican Sen. Travis Hutson is expected to present the House bills before the Senate Rules Committee next week. That committee will be the package’s only Senate hearing.
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.”