Report from Tallahassee for Week Ending March 20, 2015

Written by Ben Wilcox on March 20, 2015


Overview

Week three of the 2015 Florida legislative session is over and there was action on issues of interest to Common Cause Florida. The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee met this week and approved one of Common Cause Florida’s top priorities; the online voter registration legislation. Senator Jeff Clemons (D-Lake Worth) is the sponsor of SB 228 which would have required the state to set up an online system for registering voters beginning January 1, 2016. Senator Garrett Richter (R-Naples) is now a co-sponsor of Senator Clemons’ bill. Senator Richter is chair of the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee.

During this week’s meeting, the Ethics and Elections Committee approved a strike-all amendment to his bill which changed the implementation date of the bill to 2017. Secretary of State Ken Detzner has told Common Cause Florida that he believes he would be unable to implement online voter registration before the 2016 election. Detzner blames the need to delay on the fact that his voter registration database needs updating along with the voter registration system at the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

 After several organizations, including Common Cause Florida, indicated they support the amended bill, the Ethics and Elections Committee approved SB 228 by a vote of 7 to 2. The two dissenting votes were Senator Anitere Flores (R-Miami) and Senator Joe Negron (R-Palm City). Both are powerful Senators who are well connected with leadership. Neither Senator offered an explanation for their “no” vote.

 SB 228 is scheduled to be heard next by the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development. The Subcommittee does not appear to have a meeting scheduled for next week. The chair of that Subcommittee is Senator Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater). 

In the House, the bill to watch is HB 1161 by Representative Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples). That bill is a similar online voter registration bill that has been referred to the House Governmental Operations Subcommittee. The Subcommittee does have a meeting scheduled for next week, but the bill is not on the agenda. That’s concerning because as we approach the mid-point of the session, bills that aren’t moving through the process may be in trouble. 

Next week, the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee is scheduled to meet again on Tuesday. The Committee will consider SB 1372, an ethics bill by Senator Don Gaetz (R-Niceville) and SB 984 on lobbying by Senator Oscar Braynon (D-Miami Gardens). It will also consider a proposed committee bill (SPB 7064) on election administration.

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 and HB 1161 - These bills would create an online application process for voter registration. 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 now 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.

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. 

Upcoming

Common Cause will be joining Move to Amend for a press conference in the Capitol Rotunda at noon on Wednesday, 25th. The purpose of the press conference will be to urge support for HM 1321 that urges Congress to propose to states an amendment that allows federal and state regulation of corporate campaign contributions and expenditures, promoting our movement that "Corporations are not People and Political Contributions are not Free Speech". Interested citizens are encouraged to attend. 

Office: Common Cause Florida

Issues: Voting and Elections, Ethics

Tags: State Ethics, Registration and Voting Systems

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