Hillsborough commissioners advance plan to ban texting with lobbyists during meetings
TAMPA -- Hillsborough County Commissioners took a step Wednesday to ban texting with lobbyists during meetings, a move that would echo similar reforms coming to Tallahassee.
In a 5-1 vote, commissioners asked county staff to draft an ordinance that would prohibit electronic communications with registered lobbyists during county board meetings or other committee meetings where there’s a quorum. If a lobbyist or commissioner violated the policy, the communication would have to be disclosed immediately.
But even as they moved ahead, several commissioners criticized the proposed ban as toothless and unnecessary. And it’s unclear if it will pass when it comes back to the county for final action.
For one, there are no plans to punish commissioners who violate the ordinance.
“It’s symbolism over substance. This is attempting to solve a problem that does not exist here,” Hagan said. “I don’t see the value in a policy that not only doesn’t have any teeth but also allows a lobbyist to text us at 8:59 a.m. … but between 9 a.m. and 12 they can’t?”
Commissioner Sandy Murman, who proposed the ban, said it would ensure the public that commissioner won’t be influenced during meetings.
“I do believe this is really important for us to make a statement to our county,” Murman said.