Capitol Report for Week Ending February 17, 2017

Written by Ben Wilcox on February 17, 2017


Capitol Report 2017

For the week ending February 17, 2017

Filed by: Ben Wilcox, Governmental Consultant

Overview

The Florida legislature continues to prepare for the 2017 legislative session holding a fifth week of committee meetings this week. Common Cause Florida has several priority issues that are expected to receive attention during this year’s regular session which begins on March 7th.  Work on some of these issues has already begun during pre-session committee weeks in December, January and February. 

Governor Rick Scott and House Speaker Richard Corcoran continue to feud over Corcoran’s desire to kill two of Scott’s favorite agencies: Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida. The two leaders have reportedly stopped speaking to each other and this week the fight became even more personal. Governor Scott began touring the state making stops in the districts of four of the nine House Republicans who last week voted in committee to do away with the two agencies. Scott made a point at each stop to criticize Corcoran’s allies for not wanting to bring more jobs to the state.

Enterprise Florida is the state’s economic development program that provides tax-payer funded incentives to businesses in return for promised job growth.  Visit Florida is the state’s tourism marketing program.  Speaker Corcoran has said both agencies are forms of “corporate welfare” that put government in the role of picking some companies over others to get funding.

Speaker Corcoran responded to Scott’s district visits by holding a “closed” meeting at a Tallahassee restaurant where he played a five-minute video critical of Enterprise Florida to his House Republican members. The video repeatedly showed the message “No more” and showed a graphic that said: “No more picking winners and losers.”  Corcoran urged his members to “Stay on the high moral ground.” The battle between the Governor and House Speaker does not bode well for a smooth legislative session.    

Ethics Reform

A House Committee this week continued Speaker Corcoran’s push for ethics reform taking up a proposed committee bill (PCB PIE 17-03) dealing with local governments.  The bill approved Tuesday by the Public Integrity and Ethics Committee would require local elected officials in cities with more than $5 million in annual revenues to fill out more-detailed personal financial disclosure information, known as a Form 6.  Currently, city government officials are required to file a less-detailed Form 1. The Form 6 is also required for state and county officials.

The bill also creates a statewide lobbyist registry for people looking to influence local government.  Some local governments already have lobby registries, but the legislation would require the Florida Commission on Ethics to register lobbyists for about 2,400 local governments and special districts.

The committee also approved another bill that would create a trust fund that would use the $40 lobbyist registration fees to pay for increased Commission on Ethics staff to handle the new registration requirements.

Elections

A bill that would allow Florida voters to fix signatures on vote-by-mail ballots cleared the House Subcommittee on Oversight, Transparency and Administration this week.  HB 105 by Representative Janet Cruz would change the process for when signatures on ballots don’t match up to the signature on file with the Supervisor of Elections.  Bill co-sponsor Evan Jenne says diseases such as Parkinson’s or vision loss can cause signatures to change. The bill requires Supervisors of Elections to contact voters if their signature doesn’t match and allow them to update their signature. 

Redistricting

Common Cause Florida voiced its opposition last week to a bad bill, SB 352.  The bill by Senator Travis Hutson would direct the courts to hold an “immediate” hearing in cases where a legislatively passed redistricting plan is challenged.  It also say the court must render a decision as “expeditiously as possible.”  It goes on to “encourage” the court to hold public hearings on remedial maps and allow public testimony on any proposed map. Common Cause Florida opposes the bill as a violation of the separation of powers.  Since when does the legislative branch of government get to tell the judicial branch how to do its job?

The bill will be heard next Tuesday in the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee.  Common Cause members should contact Committee Chair Senator Kathleen Passidomo and committee members and ask them to vote “No” on SB 352.

Legislation

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

  • HJR 1 and SJR 482 – Proposes a constitutional amendment to place a 12-year term limit on Supreme Court Justices and District Court Judges. 
  • HB 41 and SB 774 – This bill would create an independent commission responsible for legislative and congressional redistricting.  
  • HJR 51 and SJR 74 – These joint resolutions 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 these bills.
  • HB 53 and SB 270 and SB 934 – These bills would statutorily provide for the automatic restoration of voting rights and some other civil rights to former felons.
  • SB 72 – This bill would allow driver license applications and identification card applications to serve as voter registration applications.  Common Cause Florida supports this bill.
  • SB 80 – This is a bad public records bill that would make attorney’s fees “discretionary” in successful public records lawsuits.  Common Cause Florida opposes this bill.
  • HB 105 and SB 544 and SB 954 – These bills require Supervisors of Elections to allow submission of an affidavit to cure signature discrepancies on vote-by-mail ballots.  Common Cause Florida supports these bills.
  • HB 117 and SB 426 – Requires an independent audit of voting systems in random precincts before certification of an election rather than after.
  • HJR 121 – Provides for legislative review of judicial rulings declaring a legislative act void.  Common Cause Florida opposes this bill.
  • SJR 138 – Proposed constitutional amendment requiring Supervisors of Elections be elected.
  • HB 159 and SB 758 – Gives a candidate an additional 48 hours to pay a qualifying fee if for some reason a check is returned.
  • HB 207 – This bill would prohibit agency Inspector Generals from receiving a bonus for work performance.
  • SB 224 – Related to voting assistance, poll watching and voter solicitation.
  • HB 231 and SB 366 – Provides for nonpartisan elections for state attorneys and public defenders.
  • SB 242 and HB 311 – Providing for the election of the president by popular vote.
  • SB 246 and HB 163 – This is the compromise public records bill that was agreed to last year as an alternative to Senator Steube’s bad public records bill.
  • SB 306 – This bill would raise the conflict of interest bar for the legislature and prohibit legislators from voting on issues that benefit themselves. 
  • SB 352 – This is a bad redistricting bill that attempts to require the courts to hold expedited hearings on any challenge to a legislatively drawn map and “encourages” the court adopt certain procedures.  Common Cause Florida opposes this bill.
  • HB 409 – requires Supervisors of Election to establish an election alert system informing voters of changes in polling.  
  • HB 445 – Provides public records exemption for certain voter registration information.
  • SB 508 and HB 519 – Relating to automatic tabulating equipment and recounts.
  • HB 521 and SB 726 – Allows an absent elector to vote by personally delivering a vote by mail ballot to an early voting site.
  • HJR 565 – Provides a constitutional amendment to automatically restore a felon’s right to vote three years after completion of sentence.
  • SB 598 – Relating to provisional ballots.
  • SB 602 and HB 817 – Allows preregistered voters to vote in the presidential preference primary if they turn 18 before the general election.
  • HB 707 and HB 709 – These bills direct the Secretary of State to enter into agreements with other states to maintain the statewide voter registration system.
  • HB 733 – Revises provisions for “curing” provisional and mail-in ballots.
  • HJR 811 and HJR 882 – Constitutional amendment that would make the Secretary of State an elected office.
  • SB 862 – Provides for a public records exemption for preregistered voters who are minors.
  • SB 952 – Revises the resign-to-run law to require an officer who qualifies for federal public office to resign from the office he or she presently holds if the terms, or any part thereof, run concurrently.
  • HJR 7001 and HB 7003 – This joint resolution and bill propose a six-year ban on former legislators, elected officials and appointed officials from lobbying state government after leaving office.

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.

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Office: Common Cause Florida

Issues: Accountability, Ethics, Money in Politics, More Democracy Reforms, Voting and Elections

Tags: State Ethics, Redistricting, Registration and Voting Systems

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