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Florida Senate scuttles House ethics changes

A major ethics package backed by House Speaker Richard Corcoran is dead for the session after the Senate refused to consider the legislation, House leaders said Tuesday.

The measures included an effort (HJR 7001) to extend a lobbying ban on lawmakers from the current two years to six years after they leave office and a bill (HB 7021) that would have strengthened lobbying and disclosure rules for local governments and officials.

RELATED: Complete Florida Legislature coverage

“The Senate has indicated that they have no intention taking them up,” said Fred Piccolo, a spokesman for Corcoran.

The measures passed overwhelmingly in the House with bipartisan support.

Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, on Tuesday did not give a specific reason why the Senate will not consider the House’s ethics package.

“The Senate is very committed to the highest ethical standards, and we believe that the ethical rules that we currently have in place should be enforced,” Negron said. “I’m certainly open for suggestions on how we can enhance that, but I think we both agree that we should hold elected officials to the highest standard of ethics.”

The ethics proposals were part of a series of rules and legislation advanced by Corcoran to curb lobbyists and special-interest groups in Tallahassee, while also providing more transparency in the legislative process, including the annual passage of a state budget.

The ethics provisions, including the six-year lobbying ban, were part of what Corcoran described during his organizational session speech in November as “creating a firewall between those who seek to influence the law and those of us who make the laws.”

He said the six-year lobbying prohibition would have been the “longest and strongest ban in the nation.”

Although the measures are dead for the 2017 session, which is scheduled to end May 5, Corcoran will not give up on the proposals, Piccolo said.

One option would be to have the Constitution Revision Commission, which will propose amendments for the 2018 ballot, consider some of the House’s proposals. Corcoran appointed nine of the 37 members on the constitutional panel.

The House ethics measures included:

  • HJR 7001, a proposed constitutional amendment that would have extended the two-year lobbying ban for state lawmakers and statewide elected officials to six years. It also would have extended the ban to cover lobbying all state government agencies and not just the agency or body that the official served in. It passed the House in a 108-4 vote.
  • HB 7021, a bill that would have required mayors and commissioners in cities with budgets of more than $10 million to file a “full” financial disclosure, rather than the more limited forms that they file now. It also would have required anyone lobbying a city, county, school district or other public agency to register with the state Commission on Ethics. It passed the House in a 114-1 vote.
  • HB 7083, a bill that in addition to the six-year lobbying ban on lawmakers would have imposed a two-year lobbying ban on top state agency officials. It also would have strengthened provisions prohibiting lawmakers and others from soliciting jobs from entities where there might be conflicts of interest. The bill is scheduled for a House vote this week.

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