Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Proposed bill would reregulate 'electioneering' in Florida

I'm hanging out this week in Tallahassee, where our Legislature has started its 60-day annual session. The ship has not wrecked so far, but then, this is only Day 8.

One of the big things that will come up this morning is an elections bill, always a hot topic. There's a saying that the Legislature consists of 160 self-appointed election "experts."

Senate Bill 880 is 59 pages long, and its title alone (which must specify out all the things the bill does) takes up 150 lines. There are at least three things of note in it:

• First, the law would restore some state rules on "electioneering" groups. These are the outfits that run commercials that say things like, "Call Sen. Smith and tell him to stop hurting Florida's children."

Everybody knows they are thinly veiled campaign ads, and the Legislature to its credit tried to regulate them. But a federal judge last year threw out Florida's law as too broad.

Without state regulation and reports, we don't get to know who's spending this money before the state election. (These groups still have to tell the feds later, but by then we've already voted.)

Under this bill, groups would be regulated if they ran ads within 60 days of the general election, or 30 days before the primary election, that were clearly intended to support or oppose a candidate — where there could be "no other reasonable interpretation."

One of the problems with the old law was that even small groups of citizens such as a condominium association might unwittingly become an "electioneering" group for as much as publishing a newsletter. The new bill applies only to groups or individuals who raise and spend more than $5,000.

• Another part of SB 880 would return Florida to a system of "leadership funds," in which the party leaders of the House and Senate have their own political committees to raise money and help their colleagues get elected. It was considered a "reform" when we got rid of these funds a few years back.

As an old reformer, I ought to hate to see them again. These "leadership funds" were basically a way to buy influence directly in the Legislature. And yet these days dozens of members of the Legislature have these kinds of committees anyway — they just have different names.

There's even the argument that going back to the old system would be better than the hodgepodge of committees we've got now — at least all the money comes into and flows out of the same place, and is fully reported to the public and hence more visible. How's that for logic?

• Deep down in the bill, there's a section that made me sit up and laugh with recognition: It weakens the ban passed just last year on "electioneering" by Florida's local governments, or taking sides on ballot issues.

The bill would change the rules to say only that local governments cannot budget any money to try to influence elections. This gives them a freer hand to do just about anything else, as long as they can claim they did not make a "specific appropriation or designated expenditure."

SB 880 is up before the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee this morning. Speakin' from the peanut gallery, I would reregulate the "electioneering groups," ban all legislative fundraising committees (which ain't gonna happen), and kill the local-government stuff. But that's just me.

Proposed bill would reregulate 'electioneering' in Florida 03/08/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 9, 2010 1:08am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Review: Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald team up to cool down the Clearwater Jazz Holiday

    Blogs

    A cool breeze swept through Coachman Park Saturday night. Couple of them, actually.

    Kenny Loggins performed at the Clearwater Jazz Holiday on Oct. 21, 2017.
  2. No. 16 USF hangs on at Tulane, off to first 7-0 start

    College

    NEW ORLEANS — After half a season of mismatches, USF found itself in a grudge match Saturday night.

    USF quarterback Quinton Flowers (9) runs for a touchdown against Tulane during the first half of an NCAA college football game in New Orleans, La., Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Derick E. Hingle) LADH103
  3. Lightning buries Penguins (w/video)

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Ryan Callahan spent a lot of time last season rehabilitating his injured hip alongside Steven Stamkos, who was rehabbing a knee after season-ending surgery. During those hours, Callahan noticed two things about Stamkos: his hunger and his excitement to return this season.

    Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Slater Koekkoek (29) advances the puck through the neutral zone during the first period of Saturday???‚??„?s (10/21/17) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
  4. Spain planning to strip Catalonia of its autonomy

    World

    BARCELONA, Spain — The escalating confrontation over Catalonia's independence drive took its most serious turn Saturday as Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain announced he would remove the leadership of the restive region and initiate a process of direct rule by the central government in Madrid.

    Demonstrators in Barcelona protest the decision to take control of Catalonia to derail the independence movement.
  5. Funeral held for soldier at center of political war of words (w/video)

    Nation

    COOPER CITY — Mourners remembered not only a U.S. soldier whose combat death in Africa led to a political fight between President Donald Trump and a Florida congresswoman but his three comrades who died with him.

    The casket of Sgt. La David T. Johnson of Miami Gardens, who was killed in an ambush in Niger. is wheeled out after a viewing at the Christ The Rock Church, Friday, Oct. 20, 2017  in Cooper City, Fla. (Pedro Portal/Miami Herald via AP) FLMIH102