Legislative Report for Week Ending April 3, 2015

Written by Ben Wilcox on April 3, 2015


Overview

Week five of the 2015 Florida legislative session is over and there was action this week on issues of interest to Common Cause Florida.  

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development met this week and unanimously approved SB 228, the online voter registration bill by Senator Jeff Clemens (D-Lake Worth). The bill still faces one more hearing by the Appropriations Committee before it goes to the full Senate. The other online voter registration bill, SB 7064, has been added to next week’s agenda for the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development.

As was mentioned in this report last week, the problem with this legislation is that there are no online voter registration bills moving in the House. The committee where the two bills that were filed were referred has held its last meeting for the session. That means those are likely dead.

An additional problem for the online voter registration legislation became evident this week when it was reported that Governor Scott’s office is trying to “scuttle” the legislation. Here’s a link to the story that appeared in the Tampa Bay Times.  Common Cause Florida is trying to set up another meeting with Secretary of State Ken Detzner to determine why the Governor is opposing the bill.

The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee met this week and approved three noncontroversial bills. SB 1296 creates a Military and Overseas Voting Assistance Task Force within the Department of State. SB 894 changes references to “absentee ballot” to “vote-by-mail ballot” in Florida law. SB1276 allows the immediate termination of Miami-Dade Expressway Authority members who fail to comply with financial disclosure requirements.

Two bills dealing with ethics reform and government accountability continued to advance this week. The bills build on the ethics reforms adopted by the legislature over the last two years. SB 1372 by Senator Don Gaetz (R-Niceville) and HB 1063 by Representative Larry Metz (R-Groveland) would strengthen methods for collecting unpaid financial disclosure fines, apply lobby registration requirements to more special districts and prohibit members of the Enterprise Florida Board from lobbying the agency for two years after they leave the Board. Both bills face one more committee hearing before being heard by the full Senate and House.  

Two bills that aim to reform the state’s Public Service Commission are making progress. SB 288 by Senator Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater) would require those who lobby the PSC register as legislative lobbyists, require the PSC to hold public customer service meetings around the state and require the Governor remove any PSC member who violates the ex parte statute. That bill will be heard next week in the Senate Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee. A similar House Bill (HB 7108) is awaiting action by the House Regulatory Affairs Committee.

Legislation

Common Cause Florida is currently tracking a number of bills that have been filed for the 2015 legislative session. They include:

  • SB 228, HB 227, HB 1161 and SB 7064 - These bills would create an online application process for voter registration. Two of the bills, HB 1161 and SB 7064, also include elections administration provisions that allow mail ballot city elections, allow voters to update their signatures until 5:00 P.M. the day before an election and authorizes new forms of voter IDs. Common Cause Florida supports this legislation.
  • SJR 208 – This bill would propose a constitutional amendment that, if passed by voters, would automatically restore the voting rights of non-violent ex-felons, once they have completed the terms of their sentences. Common Cause Florida supports this bill.
  • SB 170 and HB 199 – These bills would prohibit elected officials from serving on the Public Service Commission for two years after they leave office and create districts that Commissioners would have to be appointed from to ensure statewide representation. Common Cause Florida supports these bills.
  • SB 230 and HB 81 – These bills would prohibit a public utility from charging a higher rate based on an increase in energy usage when that increased usage is attributable solely to an extension in the billing cycle. It also prohibits a public utility from making any change in a billing cycle without obtaining approval from the Florida Public Service Commission at least one month before the effective date of the change.
  • SB 288 and HB 219 – These bills would reform the Public Service Commission to require those who lobby the PSC register as legislative lobbyists, require the PSC to hold public customer service meetings around the state and require the Governor remove any PSC member who violates the ex parte statute. Common Cause Florida supports these bills.
  • HB 473,HB 67 and HB 4001 – These bills would repeal the nuclear cost recovery law passed in 2006 that allows power companies to charge customers in advance for nuclear plants that may or may not eventually get built. Common Cause Florida is in favor of these bills.
  • SB 1380 – This bill is a campaign finance reform bill filed by Senator Darren Soto, D-Kissimmee, that would place new restrictions on candidates coordinating with political committees to solicit funding and run advertising and restrict transfers of funds between political committees and political parties.   
  • SB 1002 – This bill would delete a requirement that officers and candidates soliciting funds for a 527 or 501 (C) (4) political committee create a website that discloses the contributions and expenditures of the committee.
  • HM 1321 – This memorial urges Congress to propose to states an amendment that allows federal and state regulation of corporate campaign contributions and expenditures.
  • SB 1372 and HB 1063 - Strengthens methods for collecting unpaid financial disclosure fines, applies lobby registration requirements to special districts and prohibits members of the Enterprise Florida Board from lobbying the agency for two years after they leave the Board.

Capitol Report will be filed weekly when the legislature holds committee meetings and during the legislative session. We will let you know if there is any recommended action that can be taken by Common Cause members that would be helpful to our lobbying efforts. 

Office: Common Cause Florida

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