Quick Summary: Expands ethics rules for elected officials and government employees, notably by expanding from two to six years the time that many officials would have to wait before they could lobby state government.
Full Summary: This proposed amendment would make sweeping changes to the state Constitution’s “ethics in government” provisions, following a failed attempt by the Legislature in 2018 to reform lobbying practices. It’s also one of the most complex questions on the ballot, with a number of different elements for voters to consider.
The proposal that generates the most headlines is a six-year ban preventing legislators and other elected officials from lobbying the Legislature or any other part of state government, which has been widely described as the longest such ban in the nation.
The current ban on lobbying after leaving office is two years, and the prohibition applies to the government body or agency that person belonged to. In other words, under current law a state legislator who leaves office must wait two years before he or she could make money by lobbying the Legislature.
Under this proposal, that senator couldn’t lobby any part of state government until six years after leaving office.
The proposed amendment also expands the range of governments that a sitting legislator may not lobby. The current prohibition applies to state government, but the proposed amendment would add federal and local governments, and the new prohibition would include statewide officeholders, such as Cabinet members.
In addition to those changes, the proposed amendment would add some new provisions, including a six-year lobbying ban for state agency department heads who leave their jobs; a total ban on paid lobbying by local elected officials while they’re in office, along with a six-year ban on lobbying their former governing body after they leave; and a ban on judges lobbying state government for six years after they leave the bench.
The lobbying changes in this amendment would take effect on Dec. 31, 2022.
Amendment 12 includes a new prohibition against officeholders and public employees using their positions to gain a “disproportionate benefit” for themselves or their families. The amendment leave it to the Florida Commission on Ethics to define a “disproportionate benefit” and determine penalties for violators by Oct. 1, 2019, and this part of the amendment would take effect on Dec. 31, 2020.
The Ethics Commission has nine members, five appointed by the governor and two each by the House speaker and the Senate president. The commission has the power to investigate ethics and lobbying complaints but does not have the power to initiate investigations on its own. According to its annual report, the commission fielded 180 complaints in 2017, the lowest number since 2011. Of those, 70 were dismissed, 87 were investigated and 23 were pending.