Florida legislature passes ethics and campaign finance reform bills

Dan Krassner, executive director of the independent government watchdog group Integrity Florida issued the below statement on the passage of historic ethics reform and campaign finance reform bills by the Florida Legislature:

“Lawmakers are beginning the process of cleaning up the government and restoring trust with Floridians. Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford promised sweeping ethics and campaign finance reform and they have delivered. After a 36-year drought, Florida lawmakers should be commended for advancing good government reforms in our state Capitol. Integrity Florida is grateful to see most of our research recommendations included in the ethics and campaign finance legislation that has been passed. While there is still more work to do to make ethics laws stronger and to fix a broken campaign finance system, Florida is finally moving in the right direction on these issues.”

Integrity Florida wishes to thank Phil Claypool, the retried executive director of the Florida Commission on Ethics for his contributions to our research and expert legal analysis throughout the legislative process. We greatly appreciate our ethics reform coalition partners, including Progress Florida, The Tea Party Network and Common Cause Florida for their great work to improve the ethics reform bill. Former State Senator Paula Dockery paved the wave for ethics reform to be realized by advocating for the issue for many years and we are honored for her guidance and contributions to the cause,” stated Krassner.

Highlights of the ethics reform legislation (SB 2 and SB 4):

  • The public would have four new ways to start ethics complaints through U.S. Attorneys, State Attorneys, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) and the Governor’s Office. Those four entities could refer credible complaints to the Florida Commission on Ethics. While not the full self-initiation of investigations that the ethics commission should have, this process is a good step to fight corruption and reduce frivolous complaints since these agencies would provide an additional vetting process for higher quality complaints to reach the ethics commission. Integrity Florida encourages U.S. Attorneys, State Attorneys, FDLE and the Governor to create “report corruption hotlines” via phone, web and email to collect anonymous tips from the public to address public corruption.
  • Financial disclosure forms will be posted online in a searchable database for the public to access.
  • The Florida Commission on Ethics will begin moving towards an electronic filing system for financial disclosure to make the process smoother for filers and to provide better quality information for the public to access in an easier to read format.
  • More ethics training for public officials will be required.
  • Fine enforcement will be enhanced by allowing the ethics commission to garnish wages of officials owing fines to the commission and it extends the collection period from five to twenty years.
  • Voting conflict standards and disclosures have been strengthened.
  • Expands ethics code restrictions on gifts from vendors to state officials.
  • Strengthens revolving door rules to limit legislators from lobbying for two years after they leave office.
  • Creates new restrictions to prohibit officials from obtaining crony jobs based on their public office.

Highlights of the campaign finance legislation (HB 569):  

  • Raises contribution limits to $3,000 for statewide candidates and $1,000 for legislative and local candidates.
  • Requires 24-hour disclosure of contributions and expenditures in the final days of state-level campaigns and a more rapid filing schedule for campaign reports year-round for candidates and committees.
  • Streamlines independent committees by eliminating committees of continuous existence.
  • Directs the Florida Division of Elections towards creation of an enhanced statewide campaign finance database. 

Related Integrity Florida research:

Corruption Risk Report: Florida Ethics Laws
June 6, 2012

Corruption Risk Report: Financial Disclosure
July 30, 2012

Florida’s Broken Campaign Finance System – Integrity Florida Report to the Florida House of Representatives Ethics & Elections Subcommittee
January 16, 2013

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