Florida Representatives Travis Hutson and Doc Renuart and Senator John Thrasher, updated Historic City News on several administrative issues that came before the Florida House and Senate during the first week of the legislative session.
HB 7013 (House Ethics & Elections Subcommittee)
• Early Voting Days/Hours: Extends period from 8 days minimum up to 14 days; increases hours from 96 to a maximum of 168 hours and allows for voting the Sunday before the general election at the discretion of Supervisor of Elections
• Early Voting Sites: Expands authorized sites to include civic and convention centers, fairgrounds, stadiums, courthouses and commission buildings
• Ballot Length: Applies 75-word limit on ballot summaries to constitutional amendments passed by the Legislature but not those rewritten by Attorney General
• Status: The full House approved the bill on the first day of Session. The Senate is now work-shopping the issue.
SB 2 (Senate Ethics and Elections Committee)
Summary: Comprehensive bill impacting public officials, elected and appointed, at the state and local level:
• Ethics Training: Mandatory annual 4 hours of ethics training (Sunshine Law, Public Records, Code of Ethics) for “constitutional officers”
• Dual Public Employment: Prohibits an elected official from accepting public employment that he or she knows, or reasonably should know, was established or offered to gain influence or advantage based on the elected official’s status; similar restrictions for accepting promotions in existing public employment.
• Financial Disclosure Filings: Gives Commission on Ethics (COE) greater ability to collect financial disclosure fines, including garnishment of wages and increasing statute of limitations from 5 to 20 years.
• Complaints and Investigative Proceedings: Authorizes the COE to initiate investigations based on a referral from the Governor, FDLE, or a State/US Attorney.
• Status: This bill was unanimously approved by the full Senate on the first day of Session. The House is now work-shopping the bill.
Campaign Finance Activities
HB 569 (R. Schenck)
• Committees of Continuous Existence (CCEs): Eliminates CCEs by September 30, 2013 and requires submission of any outstanding reports after revocation
• Campaign Contributions: Increases limits to candidates from $500 to $10,000 effective 7/1/13 and allows unlimited contributions to Political Committees.
• Candidates allowed to retain up to $100,000 in surplus campaign funds for use in next election for same office
• Disclosures to DOE, Supervisor of Elections or Clerk: Submission of monthly contribution and expenditure reports until 60th day before primary (7 days after qualifying ends); Submission of weekly reports thereafter with last report due on the 4th day before the general election
• Creation of a Statewide Campaign Finance Database
• Status: Passed two of its three committees of reference and is now in State Affairs.
Regulation of Family or Medical Leave Benefits
SB 726 (S. Simmons)
• Mandates employers provide certain medical and sick leave benefits to eligible employees not presently covered by the FMLA
• Seeks to prohibit counties from requiring benefits that go beyond those outlined in the bill.
• Status: The bill was temporarily postponed in its first committee on Thursday, March 7, signaling trouble.
• Outlook: The business industry does not like the bill as currently drafted but rather prefer HB 655. Too early to reasonably predict outcome.
HB 655 (R. Precourt)
• Seeks to prohibit counties from requiring or otherwise regulating employee benefits (defined as family and medical leave benefits and wages) offered by its contractors.
• Deletes provision in s. 218.77, F.S., allowing counties to mandate a minimum wage.
• Status: In State Affairs on Thursday, March 7 the bill was amended to repeal all local ordinances mandating a living wage in June 2016. It was its last committee of reference and is headed to the floor.
Florida Retirement System
HB 7011 (R. Brodeur)
• FRS is the primary retirement plan for employees of the state, county, district school boards, community colleges and universities (county employees comprise approx. 22% of FRS). Currently there are two plan options: Defined Benefit (pension) or Defined Contribution (investment).
• Legislation seeks to close the Defined Benefit plan to new hires with Proposed Changes to FRS Effective January 1, 2014: Closes the DB plan (pension) to new enrollees
• Requires all new enrollees to participate in the DC plan (investment)
• Eliminates option for new enrollees to apply for disability benefits
• Closes Senior Management Service Optional Annuity Program to new participants
• Prohibits elected officials from joining the Senior Management Service Class in lieu of participation in the Elected Officers’ Class
• Does not impact the ability of any current FRS enrollee to select participation in the DB (pension) or the DC (investment) plan.
• Status: The bill will be heard in its first committee on Friday March, 8, 2013. According to House staff, the proposed reforms will end up saving counties $3.1 billion by 2042.
SB 1392 (S. Simpson)
• Summary: Unlike HB7011, the bill does not close the DB plan to new employees but rather changes the default election from the DB to the DC plan and increases vesting in DB from 8 to 10 years; reduces employee contribution to DC plan from 3% to 2% to incentivize enrollment in DC plan.
• Status: It has been referred to three committees but not yet calendared.
SB 50 (S. Negron)/HB 23 (R. Rodrigues)
• Requires members of the public be given an opportunity to be heard at public meetings
• Provides rules for allowing public testimony
Provides remedies for violation of statute Status: Both bills were amended to add definition of a “ministerial act” in committee the week of March 4, 2013. SB50 passed all its committees and is headed to the Senate floor, and HB23 has two more committee stops.