March 6, 2013 •
Bills were priorities of Senate President
On the first day of the 2013 legislative session the Florida Senate unanimously passed ethics reform bills.
The bills add revolving door provisions, increase the responsibilities of the ethics commission, and require financial disclosure reports to be posted online.
The reform package now moves to the House, where somewhat different versions of the legislation are already under consideration.
February 8, 2013 •
From five members to seven
The Palm Beach County Commission voted in favor of a proposal to expand the county’s ethics commission from five members to seven. County Commissioner Priscilla Taylor pushed for the change, saying the commission needed more diversity.
The proposal will go before the committee responsible for drafting changes to the county code, and then back to the county commission for a final vote.
Independent community groups are responsible for selecting the ethics commission’s members.
January 17, 2013 •
Possible changes to gift law and revolving door provisions
The Florida Senate Committee on Ethics and Elections is working on a proposed bill to revise the state’s ethics law.
The draft language relating to lobbying and gift law in the bill establishes a fine for executive branch lobbyists for failure to provide required information or knowingly providing false information in a report, and prohibits vendors from providing gifts to reporting individuals or procurement employees. Other changes the committee is considering include:
- Restrictions on former legislators’ employment as a lobbyist, such as ban on executive branch lobbying and a prohibition on becoming a partner, principal, or employee of a firm whose primary business is lobbying the state legislature within the two years after a legislator leaves office; and
- A prohibition on or reduced gift limit for gifts to covered individuals from committees of continuous existence, or CCEs. House Speaker Will Weatherford has called for elimination of CCEs, which are often used by legislators to pay for meals, travel, and gifts.
The committee plans to have final draft language available on January 18, and plans to consider the proposed bill at its January 22 meeting.
December 10, 2012 •
AO 2012-34 – Freedom PAC and Friends of Mike H
The Federal Election Commission issued an Advisory Opinion on December 6, 2012, concluding a federal candidate’s campaign committee may make a contribution to an independent expenditure-only committee from funds raised for the federal candidate’s terminated political campaign.
Friends of Mike H, the principal campaign committee of former candidate Mike Haridopolos, requested an opinion to determine whether it could give $10,000 or more of its excess funds raised for Mr. Haridopolos’s 2012 U.S. Senate primary election campaign in Florida, from which he withdrew, to an independent expenditure-only committee called Freedom PAC. Currently, Mr. Haridopolos does not hold federal office and is not seeking any elected federal office.
Because Friends of Mike H. is not using its funds for personal use or for any unlawful use, the Commission found Mr. Haridopolos’s political committee may make its requested contributions to Freedom PAC. The Commission also noted that “amount limitations are generally unconstitutional as applied to contributions that will be used to finance independent activity.”
November 26, 2012 •
Panel will make recommendations on state of city ethics law
The Tallahassee city commission has approved the volunteers appointed to the newly-created ethics advisory panel.
The panel will spend six months reviewing the city’s policies on ethics, financial disclosure, and transparency to determine whether to keep the current policies or adopt new ones.
The meetings will be publicly noticed, and the panel has already invited several outside experts to give feedback.
October 11, 2012 •
Calls for record keeping of texts to county phones
Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs is calling for measures to monitor and prevent lobbyists from texting county commissioners during meetings. The county commission voted in September to delay putting a measure requiring employers to provide employees with sick time on the ballot. Three of the four commissioners who voted to delay the measure acknowledged that they were texting with lobbyists opposed to the measure during the meeting, and later deleted a number of those texts.
Mayor Jacobs released a memo stating that she ordered a system to be set up to archive text messages from county phones. She is also calling for the county to study how other governments address electronic lobbying during meetings, in consideration of a potential ban on such discussions.
Advocates for the proposed sick time ballot initiative have filed suit claiming that the county commissioners violated state public record and open meetings laws, and asking the court to set aside the vote on the measure.
October 3, 2012 •
First Amendment challenges a common thread
With the November elections on the horizon, a number of lawsuits have been filed by potential campaign contributors seeking to determine the constitutionality of their states’ campaign finance laws. The following states have seen campaign finance laws invalidated in August.
In Nebraska, the state supreme court held the Campaign Finance Limitation Act (CFLA) unconstitutional. The CFLA allowed candidates participating in the public financing program to receive additional public funds if their privately-funded opponents exceeded certain spending limits. The court also struck down the CFLA’s aggregate contribution limits and rules governing acceptance of contributions from independent groups after the court determined the public financing portion of the CFLA was not severable from the rest of the law.
The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Ohio’s ban on political contributions to candidates for state attorney general or county prosecutor from doctors who treat Medicaid patients unconstitutional. The provision was designed to prevent fraud by banning contributions to those officials who prosecute Medicaid fraud, but the court held the prohibition a violation of doctors’ free speech rights.
In Florida, a federal judge issued a temporary injunction blocking enforcement of Florida’s $100 per election contribution limit for persons 17 and under, holding the law an unconstitutional infringement on free speech rights. Florida allows persons aged 18 and over to contribute $500 per election.
A federal judge in West Virginia granted a preliminary injunction to prevent enforcement of West Virginia’s $1,000-per-election limit on contributions to independent expenditure PACs, on the grounds that the limit chills First Amendment free speech rights. The injunction will remain in place pending a final resolution of the case.
Finally, in Colorado, a federal judge invalidated several campaign finance rule changes made by the secretary of state. The rules struck down include one providing that organizations are only subject to reporting requirements if more than 30 percent of their spending was for or against a ballot issue, and one limiting penalties for certain campaign finance violations. The secretary of state’s rule defining electioneering communications was upheld. Two additional rules await a decision.
September 18, 2012 •
Effective date to be determined
The Palm Beach County School Board is in the process of developing a lobbyist registration policy.
Registration will likely be separate from the county’s lobbyist registration.
There is not yet a firm date by which the policy will be implemented, as the details are still being worked out by the school board.
September 10, 2012 •
Reporting no longer required for those with no expenditures
The Board of County Commissioners passed an amendment to the county’s lobbying ordinance on September 6, 2012. Expenditure reports are no longer required if a lobbyist had no expenditures during the reporting period.
The ordinance previously required expenditure reports to be filed even if no lobbying expenditures were made.
The ordinance will become effective 10 days from the date of enactment.
July 26, 2012 •
Current registered lobbyists must file new registration statement
Hollywood’s new lobbyist ordinance takes effect August 1, 2012. Lobbyist registrations now expire yearly, and will be effective from August 1 to July 31 of the following year. All current lobbyist registrations will expire July 31, 2012, and a new registration statement must be filed.
There will also be an annual registration fee of $50 for each principal or client identified on the registration statement, except for those principals or clients that do not compensate the lobbyist for lobbying. Lobbyists who do not receive compensation are now required to register.
The city clerk will also offer electronic filing of lobbyist registrations beginning August 1.
May 14, 2012 •
Electronic registration is now available
The new lobbyist registration ordinance in Palm Beach County took effect April 2, 2012. The expenditure report due date is now November 1 of each year, and continues to cover the period from October 1 – September 30.
Electronic registration is now available in addition to paper registration. Registrations now must also include the phone number of the lobbyist and principal, their signatures where both may be made electronically, and the county or municipalities to be lobbied.
The ordinance specifically excludes from expenditure reporting the salaries of the lobbyist and principal, office overhead expenses, and personal expenses for lodging, meals, and travel.
All registrations on file and in effect with the county prior to the ordinance’s effective date remain in full force and effect.
April 2, 2012 •
Here are the latest articles covering the federal government and the states:
Federal: “Lawmakers profit from positions in Congress” by Gary Martin in the San Antonio Express-News.
Federal: “Ethics committee: Sen. Vitter of Louisiana violated public trust in blocking Salazar salary” by The Associated Press in The Washington Post.
Florida: “Senate to decide punishment on Norman ethics violation” by Brittany Davis in the Miami Herald.
Idaho: “Idaho Senate approves series of new ethics rules” by Alex Morrell and Todd Dvorak (Associated Press) in the Idaho Statesman.
Mississippi: “Lawmaker appeals $346K ethics violation order” in The Clarion-Ledger.
New York: “APNewsBreak: NY board won’t disclose hire record” by The Associated Press in The Wall Street Journal.
Ohio: “Cleveland lawmaker requests legislative group’s financial records after recent bribery charge” by Joe Guillen in The Plain Dealer.
South Carolina: “Blame enough to go around for ethics rank” in the Orangeburg Times and Democrat.
Texas: “Two-thirds of Texas congressional delegation named in report on ethics lapses” by Gary Martin in the Houston Chronicle.
March 29, 2012 •
Campaign fundraising for re-election resumes
The Legislature ended a two-week extraordinary apportionment session on Tuesday, March 27, 2012. Governor Rick Scott called the special session to redraw the map of new Senate districts. The redistricting plan now goes to the Florida Supreme Court to decide whether the upper chamber did enough to fix the flaws in the first map that provoked the court’s rebuke.
At least one campaign sent out a fundraising note the next day congratulating the Legislature for its hard work during an elongated session, and asking for donations to make up for lost time. State law prohibits lawmakers from accepting campaign contributions while the Legislature is in session.
Photo of the Old and New Florida Capitol buildings by Infrogmation on Wikipedia.
March 28, 2012 •
Today we have news on redistricting issues from nine states:
Alaska: “Alaska Redistricting Board says it has adopted new election districts” by Matt Buxton in the Fairbanks Daily News Miner.
Arizona: “Brewer signs bill to keep Arizona redistricting commission going while new maps are pending” by The Associated Press in The Republic.
Florida: “Redrawn Senate map passes House, scramble for seats begin” by Mary Ellen Klas in the Tampa Bay Times.
Florida: “Legislature ends redistricting session, new Senate map approved” by Mary Ellen Klas in The Miami Herald.
Idaho: “Redistricting will shake up Idaho Legislature” by Sean Ellis in the Capital Press.
Kansas: “Kan. House to debate congressional remap bill” by The Associated Press in the Salina Journal.
Maryland: “Group seeks referendum on new Md. congressional map” by Annie Linskey in The Baltimore Sun.
Missouri: “Missouri Supreme Court upholds House districts” by Elizabeth Crisp in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
West Virginia: “W.Va. lawmakers seek OK of congressional districts” by Eric Eyre in the Charleston Gazette.
Wisconsin: “Judges: Collaboration needed on Wis. voting maps” by The Associated Press on Madison.com.
Wisconsin: Opinion piece “Redistricting decision offers important lesson” by Christine Neumann-Ortiz in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
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