Capitol Report 2017
Week ending April 21, 2017
Filed by: Ben Wilcox, Governmental Consultant
The Florida legislature has completed its seventh week of the 2017 legislative session. There are now two weeks left before the end of the regular session. Common Cause Florida has a number of priority issues that are seeing action in legislative committees, the Senate and in the House of Representatives.
This week was not a good week for Miami Senator Frank Artiles. According to reports, Senator Artiles berated Senator Audrey Gibson, a black Democrat from Jacksonville, with profanities and racist remarks while at a private club in Tallahassee. Artiles eventually made a public apology on the Senate floor, but it wasn’t enough for his critics who called for him to resign. Finally, on Friday he did resign, removing what would have been a big distraction as the legislature works to end the 2017 session on time.
State House Speaker Richard Corcoran now says his push to give Florida some of the toughest ethics laws in the nation is dead for this year’s session. Corcoran blames Senate Republicans for showing “zero interest.” The House passed the bills overwhelmingly, but the legislation has not moved in the Senate.
The bills include HJR 7001, which would have extended the so-called revolving door prohibition for legislators and elected state officials from the current two-year ban on lobbying to six years and would have been the longest such ban in the country.
The bills also include HB 7021, a local government ethics reform bill which would have required local elected officials in cities with more than $10 million in annual revenues for three consecutive years to fill out more-detailed personal financial disclosure information. The bill also created a statewide lobbyist registry for people looking to influence local government.
This week, an additional ethics reform bill was passed by the House by a 118 to 1 vote. The bill, HB 7083, includes the six-year ban on lobbying and also prevents public officials from accepting or soliciting legal or other professional work with entities regulated by the state. The measure imposes a two-year lobbying ban on former appointed heads of state agencies and prohibits lawmakers and Cabinet officers from soliciting investment advice or entering into investment deals with lobbyists or principles. The bill now goes to the Senate where it will likely die along with the other ethics reform measures.
A bad redistricting bill, HB 953, that Common Cause Florida opposes, was not on the agenda of the House Judiciary Committee for the third week in a row. The bill, by Representative Larry Ahern, would require a court to provide for an expedited hearing and ruling in a scenario where a challenge was brought to the state’s legislative or congressional districts.
The bill also establishes a deadline for resolving legislative and congressional challenges which would allow candidates to run in their old districts if new ones are not in place. Common Cause Florida opposes the bill as a violation of the separation of powers and an attack on the independence of the judicial branch. The House Judiciary Committee has one more meeting scheduled next week. The bill’s Senate comparable, SB 352, has already been passed by the full Senate.
The Senate Criminal Justice Committee this week discussed a bill aimed at making it easier for ex-felons to have their civil rights restored including their right to vote. SB 934 by Senator Perry Thurston provides for automatic restoration of voting rights for ex-felons once they have completed their sentences. The bill provides an exception for restoration of rights for those convicted of rape or murder. The Committee did not vote on the measure, but committed to working on the issue again next year.
HB 105, a bill that requires county elections officials to notify Florida voters if their signatures on vote-by-mail ballots don’t match their registration forms is still awaiting final passage by the House.
Several other elections bills are still working their way through the Senate Committee process. SB 726, would give Supervisors of Election the option of allowing Florida voters to hand deliver vote-by-mail ballots to an early voting site. The bill is in the Rules Committee. A comparable bill, HB 521, was passed unanimously by the full House and is now in the Senate. That bill requires all Supervisors to allow voters to hand deliver vote-by-mail ballots to early voting sites.
Two bills, HB 707 and HB 709, were passed by the House Government Accountability Committee. The bills direct the Secretary of State to enter into agreements with other states to better maintain the statewide voter registration system. The bills will now go to the full House. Two similar bills, SB 1070 and SB 1072, are also moving through the Senate Committee process.
HB 1325 was also passed this week by the House Government Accountability Committee. The bill would allow candidates to pay qualifying fees by cashier’s check. It also prohibits elected officials from serving as poll watchers and gives Supervisors of Election the option to publish sample ballots in a newspaper or mail them to registered voters. The bill allows the use of touch screen voting machines as long as they produce a paper record to be used for recounts. The bill also restricts the ability of the courts to extend poll hours to just instances where “extraordinary circumstances exist to justify the extension.” The bill now goes to the full House.
Common Cause Florida is currently tracking a number of bills that have already been filed for the 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 public records bill that has been amended to address frivolous public records lawsuits. Common Cause Florida now supports 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 and SJR 1098 – Provides for legislative review of judicial rulings declaring a legislative act void. Common Cause Florida opposes this bill.
- SJR 130, SJR 132, SJR 134, SJR136, HJR 187, HJR 271, HJR 571, HJR 721 – Dealing with the selection and duties of county officers.
- 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 and SB 1470 – These bills 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 and HB 953 – These are bad redistricting bills that attempt to set a timetable where legislators can run for election in their current districts even while those districts are being challenged in court. The bills also “encourage” the court to adopt certain procedures. Common Cause Florida opposes these bills.
- 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.
- HB 479 and SB 880 – These bills provide clear definitions of government abuse, fraud and waste and require all government agencies to establish internal controls aimed at preventing those problems.
- 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 and SB 1070 and SB 1072 – 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.
- HB 897 – Allows local governments to post legal notices on their websites.
- SB 914 and HB 919 – Allows two or more local officials to meet as long as no action is taken and no public business is discussed.
- SM 944 and HM 825 – Memorial urging Congress to remove obstacles that prevent states from ensuring that noncitizens are not allowed to vote.
- 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.
- SB 990 – requires local governments to hold elections in odd or even years on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.
- HB 1057 and SB 1178 – Campaign finance bills that prohibit transfers from political committee or ECO to another and requires quarterly reporting instead of monthly reporting.
- SB 1160 – Specifies what payment can be used to qualify for election.
- HB 1325 – This is an elections bill that expands the use of voter interface devices, specifies the forms of payment that can be used to qualify for election and prohibits a court from extending the official closing time of the polls unless extraordinary circumstances exist.
- 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.
- HB 7021 and HB 7023 – HB 7021 would require local elected officials in cities with more than $10 million in annual revenues for three consecutive years to fill out more-detailed personal financial disclosure information, known as a Form 6. It also creates a local government lobby registry system. HB 7023 creates a trust fund to pay for the lobby registry.
- HB 7083 – This bill includes the six-year ban on lobbying and also prevents public officials from accepting or soliciting legal or other professional work with entities regulated by the state.
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