Sunday, May 1, 2011

What rules bind the lobbyists who shape Florida's laws?

As the 2011 Florida Legislative Session winds down, let's see how much you know about the rules binding the lobbyists who play a key role in shaping the laws we all must follow.

How would you have answered each of the following questions?


1. A state legislator may accept a cup of coffee and muffin from Goodwill Industries while touring a facility for legislative business in their district?

False. A gift ban passed on the last day of the 2005 special session prohibits legislators from grabbing a cup of coffee or a sandwich with constituents. This session, legislation was filed to change this so that legislators could attend receptions and local events free of charge if the cost was $25 or less. The bill stalled in committee.

For more on the Legislature’s gift rule go to: http://www.ethics.state.fl.us/publications/gifts%20info_2007_web.pdf

2. A legislator may not accept a $10,000 campaign contribution from a company with interests pending before the legislature?

False. Legislators may set up political committees, which can accept unlimited funds.

3. Legislators are prohibited from voting on measures that benefit themselves or their family members?

False. Despite a statewide grand jury report calling for ethics reform, legislation implementing these changes has stalled for the fourth year in a row. This year’s version, SB 86, would prohibit lawmakers from voting on issues that would almost exclusively benefit them or their relatives or the companies for whom they work. Under the bill, lawmakers would have to publicly disclose their potential conflicts of interest before abstaining from voting.

For more information on this bill, go to: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2011/0086
And click on the “analysis” tab.

4. A lobbyist is prohibited from representing entities that may have conflicting interests?

False. Lobbyists may represent numerous clients, even those with conflicting interests. Lobbyists are required to file with the state and report who they represent. This information can be found at:
http://www.leg.state.fl.us/Lobbyist/index.cfm?Tab=lobbyist

Additionally, since 2005, lobbyists have been required to report their income from clients. This measure was upheld by the Florida Supreme Court in 2009.

This work by Donna DiMaggio Berger, Esq. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Generic License.

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