October 22, 2013 •
Philadelphia Board of Ethics Proposes Gift Limits
Ethics watchdogs say limits are too low
The city Board of Ethics has proposed new gift regulations designed to clarify what is and is not permitted under the city code. The proposed limits would allow city officers and employees to accept gifts of up to $200 per year from a single source, including cash gifts up to $50. Currently, only gifts of substantial economic value given with the expectation of influencing the public official or employee are prohibited.
City watchdogs have criticized the proposed limits as being too lenient, but ethics board member Sanjuanita Gonzales suggested those limits could be subject to change after public input.
A hearing on the proposed regulations is scheduled for November 20.
October 17, 2013 •
Two Kentucky Special Elections for December 10
House District 7 and Senate District 13
Governor Steve Beshear has called two special elections for December 10, 2013. The elections will be in the 7th House District and the 13th Senate District.
The 7th District vacancy occurred after Rep. John Arnold resigned his seat in September following sexual harassment allegations from three Legislative Research Commission employees. The Legislative Ethics Commission recently determined there was probable cause Rep. Arnold violated the code of ethics and will hold a full hearing on the sexual harassment complaints on December 12.
The 13th Senate District vacancy occurred following Sen. Kathy Stein’s circuit judge appointment.
October 3, 2013 •
Mississippi PAC Registration Threshold Unconstitutional As Applied to Ballot Measure Group
AG Jim Hood may appeal
U.S. District Judge Sharion Aycock ruled a portion of Mississippi’s campaign finance law unconstitutional as applied to a group of five Oxford, Mississippi residents backing a ballot initiative. The group desired to pool funds to purchase posters and advertising supporting a 2011 initiative, but determined doing so would trigger political committee registration under state law.
The group filed suit, alleging Mississippi’s $200 threshold unduly burdened their First Amendment rights. Judge Aycock agreed, finding the $200 threshold was “simply too low” for the “significant and onerous burdens on persons attempting to join together to raise or expend in excess” of the threshold.
Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood indicated he may appeal the ruling, while Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, whose office enforces the state’s campaign finance laws, did not immediately issue comment on the case.
September 27, 2013 •
Hearing on Proposed Changes to Colorado Rules Governing Lobbyists
Consolidation and clarification of rules on agenda
The Colorado Secretary of State’s Office is holding a rulemaking hearing regarding the rules governing lobbyist regulation. The hearing will be held on October 4, 2013, from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., in the Blue Spruce Conference Room on the second floor of the Secretary of State’s Office. The public is invited to submit comments before and during the hearing, and the hearing is open to the public for discussion regarding the proposed changes.
The proposed changes include consolidation of several rules, and clarifications such as factors determining whether a violation is substantial, and who qualifies as a rulemaking official.
The complete list of changes and details of the hearing are available here.
September 16, 2013 •
Florida Senate President Calls for Random Audits of Lobbying Firm Compensation Reports
House Speaker on board with proposal
Senate President Don Gaetz is calling for random audits of lobbying firm compensation reports. Gaetz says funding was never set aside for audits to be performed in the past, so he has asked the Senate general counsel to determine what powers the Legislature has to provide funding to conduct audits going forward.
House Speaker Will Weatherford has already indicated his support for the proposal.
August 26, 2013 •
Kentucky Special Session Adjourns
Redistricting plan passed
The Kentucky Legislature adjourned its special session on Friday, August 23, 2013, after passing a new redistricting plan.
Governor Beshear quickly signed the bill after its passage.
August 20, 2013 •
Autumn Special Election in Florida
House District 36
Voters in House District 36 will head to the polls this fall to select a successor to Rep. Mike Fasano, who resigned to take a position as Pasco County’s tax collector.
The special primary will be held September 17, 2013, with the special general election following on October 15.
August 15, 2013 •
Alabama Governor Bentley Sets Special Election Timeline
Two house seats to be filled
Special elections have been announced for House Districts 74 and 104. A special primary will be held on October 15, 2013, with the general election to take place on December 10, 2013 whether or not a primary is needed.
If a primary runoff is needed, it will be held December 3, 2013, with the general election postponed until January 28, 2014. Voters will be replacing Rep. Jim Barton in District 104 and Rep. Jay Love in District 74.
August 1, 2013 •
Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission Renews 2012 Recommended Ethics Law Changes
Recommendations submitted to legislative research commission
The Legislative Ethics Commission has renewed its 2012 recommendations for several changes to the code of legislative ethics.
The recommended changes include:
- requiring employers of lobbyists to report the cost of advertising supporting or opposing legislation that appears during a session of the general assembly, if the cost is paid by an employer of lobbyists or a person affiliated with an employer;
- prohibiting employers of lobbyists and PACs from making campaign contributions to legislative candidates or legislators during a regular session of the general assembly, and prohibiting lobbyists from directly soliciting contributions for an election campaign of a legislator or legislative candidate;
- repeal the provision allowing each lobbyist and employer to spend up to $100 annually on food and beverages for each legislator and his or her immediate family, and prohibit lobbyists and employers from paying for out-of-state travel, food, or lodging expenses for legislators or candidates; and
- limiting the interaction between lobbyists and candidates who have filed to run for election to the general assembly, who are currently not subject to the $100 limit on food and beverage or prohibition on receiving anything of value from a lobbyist or employer.
May 15, 2013 •
Vermont Legislature Adjourns After Passing State Budget
Campaign finance reform will wait until next session
The Legislature adjourned late Tuesday, May 14, 2013, after passing a $1.4 billion budget bill.
Other hallmark legislation of the session included decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana, assisted suicide, and driver’s licenses for migrant workers, but the legislature failed to pass a major campaign finance reform bill.
Supporters of campaign finance reform vowed to revisit the issue in January 2014.
Photo of Vermont State House by Decumanus on Wikipedia.
May 6, 2013 •
Florida Legislature Adjourns
State’s Medicaid expansion remains unresolved
The Florida Legislature adjourned Friday, May 3, 2013, without passing an expansion of the state’s Medicaid program.
Governor Rick Scott has not indicated whether he will call a special session, or leave the issue unresolved until the next legislative session.
Photo of the Florida State Capitol building by Jenn Greiving on Wikipedia.
May 2, 2013 •
Florida Governor Scott Approves Ethics and Campaign Finance Overhaul
Campaign finance changes take effect later this year
Two major bills passed by the Florida Legislature were signed by Governor Rick Scott late on Wednesday, May 1, 2013. The bills make significant changes to the state’s ethics and campaign finance laws.
Senate Bill 2, the state’s ethics overhaul, becomes effective immediately upon becoming a law.
House Bill 569, the campaign finance bill, takes effect November 1, 2013, except for the provisions eliminating committees of continuous existence (CCEs). CCEs are prohibited from accepting contributions after August 1, 2013, and their certification will be revoked as of September 30, 2013. Additionally, the bill requires the Division of Elections to present a proposal for mandatory electronic filing to the legislature by December 1, 2013.
For previous coverage about this legislation, see “Florida Legislature Passes Campaign Finance Bill” and “Florida Ethics Bill Heads to Governor Scott” by Jennifer Zona.
April 26, 2013 •
Florida Ethics Bill Heads to Governor Scott
Adds prohibitions on lobbying by former legislators
Perhaps the most talked-about piece of legislation this session, Senate Bill 2 was passed unanimously by both houses of the Florida Legislature.
The final ethics bill:
- Prohibits members of the legislature from acting as lobbyists for compensation before an executive branch agency, agency official, or employee for two years after leaving office. The version passed by the House eliminated an original provision preventing legislators from becoming lobbyists or principals of lobbying firms lobbying the legislature;
- Provides for a fine of up to $5,000 for executive branch lobbyists who fail to disclose required material facts as required or knowingly provide false information;
- Allows the Commission on Ethics to investigate whether a lobbyist has made a prohibited expenditure if a complaint is filed; and
- Prohibits vendors from providing gifts to a reporting individual or procurement employee for vendors doing business with the reporting individual’s or procurement employee’s agency.
The ethics bill was a top priority of Senate President Don Gaetz. He called the bill his “proudest moment as a senator.” The bill was sent immediately to Governor Rick Scott, who has seven days to sign or veto the bill.
April 25, 2013 •
Florida Legislature Passes Campaign Finance Bill
Increased disclosures and contribution limits
The Florida House and Senate reached a compromise on contribution limits, passing a comprehensive campaign finance bill.
The major changes in the bill include:
- Elimination of committees of continuous existence;
- Requiring weekly reporting by political committees and electioneering communications organizations beginning with the 60th day prior to a primary election and continuing until the 4th day before a general election, and daily reporting beginning with the 10th day before a general election;
- Increasing campaign contribution limits from $500 to $3,000 for a candidate for statewide office or retention as a justice of the state supreme court, and from $500 to $1,000 for a candidate for legislative office, retention as a judge of a district court of appeal, or circuit judge; and
- Elimination of limits on contributions to political committees.
The original bill increased all contribution limits from $500 to $10,000. At the beginning of debate on the bill, House Speaker Will Weatherford tweeted, “today is meet me halfway day.”
While critics argue the bill doesn’t go far enough and too many loopholes remain, Senator Jack Latvala, chairman of the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee, said the goal is transparency. He contends money in politics isn’t going anywhere, so the best the legislature can do is require disclosure.
The bill now awaits action by Governor Rick Scott.
State and Federal Communications, Inc. provides research and consulting services for government relations professionals on lobbying laws, procurement lobbying laws, political contribution laws in the United States and Canada. Learn more by visiting stateandfed.com.