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Florida lawmakers refile legislation aimed at curtailing activities of 'membership associations'



Sure, it sounds innocuous enough, "membership associations."

What the bill by Sen. Kelli Stargel and Rep. Eric Eisnaugle would do is require groups such as the Florida School Boards Association and Florida Association of District School Superintendents to file annual reports with the Legislature, and bar them from using "moneys received from public funds" on litigation against the state.

It doesn't mention those education groups specifically, addressing instead all not-for-profit corporations "the majority of whose board members are constitutional officers who ..., operate, control, and supervise public entities that receive annual state appropriations through a statutorily defined formulaic allocation that is funded and prescribed annually in the General Appropriations Act or the substantive bill implementing the annual appropriations act." 

But last year a similar measure was widely called the "FSBA bill," with some talk of simply targeting that single group. At issue? The FSBA's lawsuit, later dropped, challenging the state's tax credit scholarship voucher program.

FSBA executive director Andrea Messina questioned the bill's goal, suggesting that organizations of constitutional officers should be able to challenge state actions in court.

"I hear what they're saying. They don't want taxpayer dollars to be used to sue the state," she said. By the same measure, then, "should the state be allowed to use taxpayer dollars to sue the U.S. government? Our government has sued several U.S. departments. ... As I understand it, the dollars that were being used there were taxpayer dollars."

Messina added that, even if the bill passed, her organization and others could likely find other ways to fund their legal activities.

"If our association that represents constitutional officers believes something the state has done is unconstitutional ... they ought to be able to sue the state," she said. 

Stargel was traveling and not immediately available for comment.

[Last modified: Thursday, January 7, 2016 11:38am]


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