Florida House and Senate leaders reached a deal on campaign finance and ethics reforms that will double the current $500-per-election cycle contribution limit for local and legislative candidates and increase the limit to $3,000 for statewide candidates.
House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz sent both bills, two of their top priorities, on their way to Gov. Rick Scott after lawmakers in both chambers approved the behind-the-scenes compromise Wednesday. Late in the afternoon, the two leaders held a joint press conference to announce that they had achieved three of their top five goals with about 10 days left in the session.
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The Associated Press and News Service of Florida contributed to this story.
WHAT THE BILLS WOULD DO
Campaign contribution bill (HB 569)
- Increase campaign contribution limits for statewide candidates from $500 to $3,000.
- Raise contribution limits for legislative and local candidates from $500 to $1,000.
- Require candidates to file campaign finance reports more frequently, including daily in the week prior to an election.
- Allow lawmakers to “roll over” up to $20,000 from their re-election campaigns.
- Eliminate “committees of continuous existence” which critics say are slush funds candidates or lawmakers use to pay for meals, drinks and entertainment.
Ethics bill (SB 2)
- Empower state Commission on Ethics to garnish wages of elected officials who don’t pay fines.
- Extend from four years to 20 years the amount of time the commission has to collect fines.
- Increase the way the commission could start investigations to include complaints from the governor, Florida Department of Law Enforcement and state and U.S. attorneys.
- Allow the commission to post officials’ financial disclosure forms online.
- Prohibit the filing of a complaint to the commission against a candidate during the 30 days before an election unless the person who files it has firsthand knowledge of a violation, as opposed to hearsay. This is meant to protect candidates from opponents who might use the commission to launch political attacks.
- Require lawmakers to take ethics training under the bill
- Sets rules for establishing blind trusts to manage officials’ assets so they can avoid conflicts.