Although there were only a few legislative and Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) Committee meetings today, several topics of interest were considered, including a new proposed House bill and a CRC proposal that both addressed government ethics and integrity. Please click on the link below for our report on the outcome of consideration of these issues and others. There are no legislative committee meetings of interest tomorrow, but the CRC Local Government Committee will consider a proposal relating to school district flexibility. Please click on the link below for more information on this proposal that will be considered tomorrow.
In the House Public Integrity & Ethics Committee meeting:
PIE4 – Government Integrity by Public Integrity & Ethics – SUBMITTED AS A COMMITTEE BILL
The bill includes various provisions designed to promote integrity in government and identify and eliminate, fraud, waste, abuse, mismanagement, and misconduct in government. Specifically, the bill:
- Creates the Florida Accountability Office within the Office of Auditor General for the purpose of ensuring accountability and integrity in state and local government and identifying, investigating, and recommending the elimination of waste, fraud, abuse, mismanagement, and related misconduct in government.
- Requires the Chief Inspector General and agency inspectors general to make regular reasonable suspicion determinations whenever initiating an investigation of fraud, waste, abuse, mismanagement, or misconduct in government.
- Provides a mechanism for the state to recover funds when the Chief Inspector General or an agency inspector general determines a public official, independent contractor, or agency has committed fraud, waste, abuse, mismanagement, or misconduct in government.
- Requires the Chief Financial Officer to regularly forward to the Florida Accountability Office copies of suggestions and information submitted through the state’s ‘Get Lean’ hotline.
- Provides a financial incentive for agency employees to file ‘Whistle-blower’s Act’ complaints and participate in investigations that lead to the recovery of funds.
- Strengthens the state procurement law to provide greater protection to the public in connection with the expenditure of public money.
- Broadens the competitive solicitation exemption for statewide broadcasting of public service announcements, currently benefiting one particularly described statewide non-profit organization.
- Prohibits, with limited exception, a state employee from lobbying for funding for an appropriation and also participating in the negotiating and awarding of any contract in connection with the appropriation.
[NOTE: There is no Senate companion bill.]
HB 7007 – Ethics Reform by Public Integrity & Ethics – AMENDED; PASSED WITH A COMMITTEE SUBSTITUTE (CS)
The bill addresses public officer and employee conduct regarding sexual harassment, solicitation and negotiation of conflicting and potentially conflicting income producing relationships, addresses post-service lobbying restrictions for certain officers, and revises executive branch lobbyist registration requirements. Specifically, the bill:
- Prohibits sexual harassment in the public workplace and in the conduct of public business, provides that it is the policy of the state to prevent, prohibit, and discipline sexual harassment, and requires all public employees, public officers, and private persons who interact with public employees and public officers to abide by this policy.
- Prohibits public officers and employees from soliciting an employment or contractual relationship from entities with whom they are prohibited from entering into conflicting employment and contractual relationships;
- Requires public officers and employees to report any offer of an employment or contractual relationship from such entities;
- Requires certain disclosures of prohibited solicitations;
- Imposes a two-year post-service ban on personal representation before any state executive branch agency for agency directors, unless the former director is employed by another state agency;
- Imposes the following restrictions on statewide elected officers and legislators:
- Prohibits solicitation of employment or investment advice arising out of official duties;
- Prohibits solicitation and acceptance of investment advice or profitmaking arrangements (other than employment) from lobbyists or lobbyists’ employers or principals; and
- Requires immediate disclosure of either new employment or an increase in compensation from certain employers;
- Restricts certain unelected state officers and employees regarding soliciting and negotiating an employment or contractual relationship with certain employers;
- Prohibits, with limited exceptions, the use of an elected official’s name, image, or symbols of office in a public service announcement while the official is a candidate for reelection or election to another public office if such announcement is paid for with public funds or donated airtime;
- Authorizes the Commission on Ethics to investigate disclosures of certain prohibited solicitations in the same manner as a complaint;
- Revises executive branch lobbying registration requirements to mandate electronic registration, clarify provisions, adjust the maximum registration fee, and add the Board of Governors of the State University System and the State Board of Education to the list of entities to which the requirements apply; and
- Repeals a statute strictly regulating legislative lobbying by state agency, state university, and community college personnel.
[NOTE: Today’s amendments added provisions that define sexual harassment and outline procedural requirements for its prevention. This was the only committee of reference for this bill. There is no direct Senate companion bill.]
In the CRC Education Committee meeting:
Proposal 30 – Basic Rights by Martinez — FAILED
This proposal revises Article I, Section 2 of the Florida Constitution. The proposal would amend the prohibited bases of government discrimination so that this provision would provide that no person shall be deprived of any right because of race, religion, national origin, or “because of disability” (rather than “physical disability”). [NOTE: Florida’s “Equal Protection” Provision currently expressly forbids discrimination by the government on the basis of race, religion, national origin, or physical disability. Concerns were expressed that the term “disability” is not defined but may encompass a wide spectrum of physical, mental, cognitive, and developmental conditions and may also encompass “disabilities” as defined under various federal laws. This ambiguity may result in legal challenges and may interfere with existing state laws relating to guardianship, mental health services, and other related state programs and services. The proposal failed on a vote of 0-7.]
Proposal 10 – Civic Literacy by Gaetz – PASSED; PLACED ON THE CRC CALENDAR ON 2ND READING
This proposal revises Article IX of the Florida Constitution. The proposal would add a new section that would provide that, as education is essential to the preservation of the rights and liberties of the people, the legislature shall provide by law for the promotion of civic literacy in order to ensure that students enrolled in public education understand and are prepared to exercise their rights and responsibilities as citizens of a constitutional democracy. [NOTE: The proposal passed on a vote of 4-2 and is now available for consideration by the full Commission.]
In the CRC General Provisions Committee meeting:
Proposal 39 – Ethics in Government by Gaetz — PASSED
The proposal amends Article II, Section 8, Article V, Section 13, and creates a new section in Article XII of the Florida Constitution. The proposal would establish certain restrictions for specified public officers, including school district officials, and employees regarding the personal representation for compensation of another person or entity before certain government bodies and to specify minimum requirements for the Code of Ethics as to the prohibition against abuse of public position. With regard to school district personnel, the proposal provides that a county officer, a school board member, a superintendent of schools, an elected municipal officer, or an elected special district officer in a special district with ad valorem taxing authority, may not personally represent another person or entity for compensation:
- Before his or her former agency or governing body for a period of six years following vacation of office.
- Before any federal agency; the legislature; any state government body or agency, other than judicial tribunals; or any political subdivision of the state during his or her term of office.
The proposal specifies that these provisions do not prohibit any public officer or public employee from representing his or her agency before any other governmental entities in the normal course of his or her duties. In addition, the proposal provides that the code of ethics shall, at a minimum, prohibit public officers or public employees from abusing their public position:
- To obtain a disproportionate benefit for themselves; or
- To obtain a disproportionate benefit for their spouse, their children, their employer, or any other business entity with whom they do business or in which they own an interest.
The proposal requires the Florida Commission on Ethics to define disproportionate benefit, prescribe the requisite intent required for finding a violation of such prohibition, and prescribe appropriate financial penalties for violations of this provision. [NOTE: The proposal passed on a vote of 7-0 and is now available for consideration by the full Commission.]
Please note that the meeting listed below may be viewed via live webcast on the Florida Channel.
The CRC Local Government Committee will meet, 9:00 am – 12:30 pm, to consider the following item and others:
Proposal 93 – Education by Martinez
This proposal would amend Article IX, Section 4 of the Florida Constitution. The proposal would authorize the school board of a high performing school district to choose to be designated as a charter district that would be exempt from all provisions of the Florida K-20 Education Code in the same manner as a charter school designated by Florida law. A charter district would remain under the governance of the school board. [NOTE: The proposal is patterned after a program first enacted by the Legislature in 1999 — the Charter School Districts Pilot Program – that ultimately expired in 2010. This proposal allows any high-performing school district to choose, by resolution of a majority of the school board or a vote of the electors of the county, to become a charter district. The district would then be exempt from the K-20 Education Code in the same manner, and be subject to the same exemptions, as a charter school designated by Florida law. After the school district’s initial designation as a charter district, the district must maintain its status as a high-performing school district so long as the district maintains a performance grade of “B” or better for at least two years within a three-year period, the district does not fall below a performance grade of “C,” and the district’s financial reserves do not fall below the state-required minimum. It appears that 38 districts meet district grade requirements in proposal.]