Ending corruption in politics: Extending ban on lobbying

Most Historic City News readers are reluctant to support amendments to the state constitution; but, would you consider an amendment that would extend the two-year ban on lobbying the Legislature to six years?

Between now and the start of the 2017 legislative session on March 7th, members of our legislative delegation will be talking with constituents and listening to their legislative concerns. They will also be hearing from self-serving special interests who want laws enacted, modified or repealed to make it easier for them to make money, like craft distilleries.

Perhaps the strongest and most effective influence over legislators will come from professional lobbyists who are being paid to advance the legislative agenda of their clients, like local government bodies including the City of St Augustine or St Johns County. That’s correct, your local tax dollars are being spent with lobbyists in Tallahassee simply to try and influence lawmakers there to vote, one-way-or-another, as it pleases lawmakers here.

However, a proposed constitutional amendment, being considered by the House Public Integrity and Ethics Committee, is aimed at reforming a system in which former lawmakers use the experience and relationships they developed while in office to become lobbyists — after a two-year hiatus.

“There is a sort of coziness, or appearance of coziness, that occurs. And, it undermines public confidence in government,” chairman of the ethics panel, Representative Larry Metz (R) Yalaha, said after a meeting on Thursday.

Metz explained that extending the lobbying ban from two-years to six-years would also eliminate the possibility that lawmakers use their time in office to ingratiate themselves with lobbyists; hoping that they will be able to come back and land a lucrative lobbying position after their two years is up.

The proposed amendment (PCB 17-01) would have to be approved by a three-fifths vote of both the Florida House and Senate before it can be placed on the 2018 general election ballot. Then, sixty-percent of the voters would have to approve it before it could be enacted.

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