Week two of the 2015 Florida legislative session is over and there was action on issues of concern to Common Cause Florida. The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee met for a second time this week and again approved some noncontroversial bills including one that sets the first week of May as “Florida High School Senior Voter Registration Week” and encourages local supervisors of elections to provide students the opportunity to register to vote and learn about the election process.
The real action was behind the scenes and it involved one of Common Cause Florida’s top priorities; the online voter registration legislation. Senator Jeff Clemons (D-Lake Worth) filed SB 228 which would require the state to set up an online system for registering voters beginning January 1, 2016. The bill was similar to HB 227 filed by Representative Alan Williams (D-Tallahassee) in the House.
Late in the week, Senator Clemons filed a strike-all amendment to his bill which, among other minor things, changed the implementation date of the bill to 2017. Common Cause Florida had anticipated that 2017 would be the agreed upon implementation date after speaking with Secretary of State Ken Detzner. Secretary Detzner told us that he believed that he would be unable to implement online voter registration before the 2016 election and to rush into it would put Florida in jeopardy of having a flawed presidential election. Secretary Detzner blamed the need to delay on the fact that his voter registration database needed updating along with the voter registration system at the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
Shortly after Senator Clemons filed the strike-all amendment to his bill, Senator Garrett Richter (R-Naples) was shown as a co-sponsor to Senator Clemons’ bill. This is important because not only is Senator Richter a Republican, but he is also chair of the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee. The move indicates the bill now has bipartisan support and, with the change in the implementation date, it now has the blessing of the key committee chairman. It now appears that this bill (SB 228) will be the Senate vehicle that moves online voter registration forward.
In the House, most believe 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, but has yet to be scheduled for a hearing.
Next week, the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee is scheduled to meet again on Tuesday. The Committee will consider the online voter registration bill along with SB 386 by Senator Audrey Gibson (D-Jacksonville) which requires the supervisors of elections create an online form that allows voters to submit an in-state change of address electronically.
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.
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