Weaker ethics bill moves in House, likely part of horse trading
The House on Monday took up a high-priority Senate ethics bill for the first time and advanced its own weaker version -- a sure sign of horse-trading between the two chambers in the session's crucial final days.
As the eighth week of the nine-week session began, the House State Affairs Committee passed a version of the ethics bill after removing the Senate's stricter language and substituting its own on SB 846, which is sponsored by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater. The 33-page strike-all amendment, which some Housel members had not read, was offered by Rep. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Fort Myers, chair of the House ethics subcommittee, which did little of consequence this session. The original Senate bill was deliberated in the session's first week, an indication that the House may not share the Senate's enthusiasm for stronger ethics laws.
The House version strips out the so-called Ken Pruitt provision, which would prohibit local elected officials from also lobbying for profit. Pruitt, a former Senate president, is the elected property appraiser in St. Lucie County, who also maintains a Tallahassee lobbying practice. The House version also removes restrictions on post-employment lobbying by officials and board members of Enterprise Florida, and takes out the lobbyist registration and fee disclosure provisions from most special taxing districts (only the five water management district boards are in the House version).
Rep. Jim Waldman, D-Coconut Creek, voted against the bill, calling it too weak because it also drops Senate language that bars legislators from lobbying cities in their districts or from local officials lobbying neighboring cities. After the vote, Waldman said: "They're trying to put together something they can trade with over in the Senate."