Constitutional panel revamps ethics proposal

Photo does not have a caption

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A proposal that would have prohibited governmental agencies from using lobbyists to influence the annual appropriations process in the Legislature was rejected Tuesday by a Constitution Revision Commission panel.

The CRC’s Style and Drafting Committee, which is reviewing 24 proposed revisions to Florida’s Constitution, supported an amendment from Commissioner Carolyn Timmann of Stuart that removed the ban on governments using lobbyists to secure budget projects from the Legislature from a broader ethics measure (Proposal 39), sponsored by Commissioner Don Gaetz, a former Senate president from Niceville.

Timmann, who is the Martin County clerk of the circuit court, asked for the provision to be removed, saying it was not considered while Gaetz’s measure moved through the CRC committee process and it was added in a 17-15 floor vote, which could jeopardize the overall ethics package.

Each proposal will need 22 votes from the CRC to be placed on the November general-election ballot.

The lobbying ban would have “varying impacts” on governments, including cities and counties, trying to secure budget items in the annual legislative process, Timmann said.

“I particularly heard from a lot of the smaller (governmental) entities, smaller counties, smaller municipalities,” she said.

The provision had been advanced by Commissioner Tom Lee, a state senator from Thonotosassa, who argued that lobbyists and their political ties to lawmakers were having an undue influence on the appropriations process.

Gaetz’s ethics proposal, which includes a six-year lobbying ban for former state lawmakers, agencies heads, local elected officials and others, remains under consideration by the CRC.