Observations and musings on Jacksonville Politics

Legislature Looks to Weaken Election Law

Republican leadership in the Florida Legislature made some very troubling moves this week when two mysterious bills appeared in the House and Senate.  Despite the fact that we are over halfway through the legislative session, these two bills had gone unmentioned until one was heard for the first time on Thursday and promptly passed thru the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee on a party line vote.

One of the primary complaints against the legislation is that it would allow for the increase of soft money in the Florida elections process.  Chief among those complaints is a provision that would allow political committees from outside Florida to be actively engaged in Florida political races without complying with Florida’s disclosure laws.  That could set up a scenario where a stealth campaign could be conducted to propose (or oppose) a Florida constitutional amendment without a group identifying where it is receiving its funding from.

Additionally, the legislation will reinstate “leadership funds”—slush accounts that were outlawed by the Legislature in the mid 1990’s because of a long history of fund raising abuses.  This particular weakening of law is particularly troubling in light of the indictments returned yesterday against former Speaker of the House Ray Sansom (R-Destin) and Northwest Florida State College President Bob Richburg.  The indictment found, among other things, that developer Jay Odom’s nearly $1 million in donations to Sansom and the Republican Party allowed him undue influence in directing where state appropriations were sent.  

Perhaps most troubling about this legislation; however, has been the efforts of leadership to stifle debate on it.  As previously mentioned, it was introduced and passed in a Senate Committee in one day.  Likewise, the House’s version of the legislation, which was introduced in a House Committee on Friday, was rammed through in an hour.  Jacksonville-area Representative Jennifer Carrol (R) “called the question” in a tactic designed to stifle debate on the topic, leading to quick approval on part line vote.

What is perhaps most ironic about the legislation is that the bill would have prevented the passage of the amendment the Florida Republican Party pushed for the hardest during the last few years—the ban on gay marriage.  The ban, which had failed to gather enough signatures to get on the original 2006 ballot as they had intended, ended up on the 2008 ballot.  The only way they were able to accomplish this was because they used the ballot signatures that had been collected prior to 2007, something that would no longer be allowed under the new legislation.


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  1. […] down Rep. Rob Schenck (R-Spring Hill) to ask him why he made the move to limit public debate on controversial elections “reforms” after only three minutes of public input.  Schneck did this after a move by Rep. Jennifer Carroll […]

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