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Proposed amendment extends length of ban for legislators from becoming lobbyists

Amendment would extend ban to 6 years

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A proposal before the Constitution Revision Commission would make it harder for elected officials to cash in on their service.

State lawmakers must now wait two years before becoming lobbyists, but a proposed amendment would extend the ban to six years.

The proposed amendment would not only ban legislators from becoming lobbyists for six years after leaving office, but all elected officials in the state, from a county commissioner to the head of a state agency.

In Florida, state lawmakers are barred from lobbying the Legislature after leaving office for two years; 34 other states have similar cooling off periods.

"Right to the very minute they can come back, they'll come back," said Ben Wilcox, of Integrity Florida.

A proposed constitutional amendment being considered by the Constitutional Revision Commission would expand Florida's lobbying ban to six years, making them the strictest in the nation.

Amendment sponsor Don Gaetz said the proposal would also extend the ban to include all elected officials in the state.

"A county commissioner could not end his term and at the next meeting of the county commission show up as the paid lobbyist for the contractor who got a sweet deal that that county commissioner proposed in the meeting before," Gaetz said.

The extension would make it more difficult for former elected officials to maintain their connections and influence over the body in which they served.

"By the time six years is over, a lot of the people who you presided over when you were House speaker or Senate president have moved on," Wilcox said.

Some commissioners worry elected officials could sidestep the lobbying ban by having their law-partners lobby on their behalf.

The amendment was temporarily postponed, while commissioners consider whether the ban should extend to law-partners of former officials.

Commissioner Gaetz said it could be a step too far.

"It could bar people from legitimately conducting their business as attorneys or paid advocates," Gaetz said.

Commissioners plan to take up the amendment again when they meet in January.

A similar proposal was also temporarily postponed Wednesday morning. It would also ban legislators from becoming lobbyists for six years, but wouldn't apply to other elected officials.