Report from Tallahassee for Week ending March 27, 2015

Written by Ben Wilcox on March 27, 2015


Capitol Report 2015

March 27, 2015 

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Overview

Week four of the 2015 Florida legislative session is over and next Wednesday marks the midpoint of the session. There was action this week on issues of interest to Common Cause Florida. Unfortunately, a lack of action may mean trouble for one of Common Cause Florida’s top priorities; the online voter registration legislation.

 The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee met this week and approved SPB 7064 which addresses election administration. The bill, which is supported by the Supervisors of Elections, would allow mail ballot city elections, allow voters to update their signatures until 5:00 P.M. the day before an election and authorize new forms of voter IDs.

Senator Jeff Clemons (D-Lake Worth) proposed an amendment to the bill which added the online voter registration provisions contained in his bill (SB 228) which passed the committee the week before. The amendment requires the state to set up an online system for registering voters beginning in 2017. The amendment and the bill passed unanimously.

SPB 7064 is now a committee bill, but it’s unclear where it will be heard next. SB 228 is scheduled to be heard next by the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development. The Subcommittee does appear to have a meeting scheduled for next week, but the agenda has yet to be released.  

It’s in the House of Representatives where online voter registration is in serious trouble. Representative Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples) filed HB 1161 that is an online voter registration bill similar to SB 7064. That bill, along with Representative Alan Williams’ online voter registration bill (HB 227), was referred to the House Governmental Operations Subcommittee. The Subcommittee met this week, but the bills were not on the agenda. At the end of this week’s meeting, the Committee Chair Representative Michael Bileca (R-Miami) told the members that it was the committee’s last meeting. That means the bills that were referred to the committee that haven’t been heard are likely dead for this session.

After talking with the lobbyists for the Supervisors of Elections, we learned that they are still hopeful that House leadership will allow the online voter registration legislation to be considered by the House. It will be critical to see whether the bills continue to move in the Senate and whether a new vehicle becomes available in the House.

 The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee also heard and passed another bill this week that builds on the ethics reforms adopted by the legislature over the last two years. SB 1372 by Senator Don Gaetz (R-Niceville) would strengthen methods for collecting unpaid financial disclosure fines, apply lobby registration requirements to special districts and prohibit members of the Enterprise Florida Board from lobbying the agency for two years after they leave the Board. A companion to the bill (HB 1063) is also moving in the House.

 Also this week, Common Cause Florida and Move to Amend held an event to support HM 1321 by Representative Dwight Dudley (D-St. Petersburg). The legislation is a memorial that calls on Congress to pass a constitutional amendment that allows the federal government and states to regulate corporate financing of campaigns.

 Next week, the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee is scheduled to meet again on Tuesday. The Committee will consider CS/SB 1296 on military voting, SB 894 on absentee ballots and SB 1276 on ethics requirements for expressway authorities.

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 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.
  • 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

Issues: Voting and Elections, Ethics, Money in Politics

Tags: State Ethics, Registration and Voting Systems, Amend U.S.

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