A closer look at Florida Constitutional Amendment 12

Amendment 12
Excerpt from 1885 Florida Constitution. Photo edited and used with permission. Credit: State Archives of Florida.

AMENDMENT 12: lobbying and abuse of office by public officers

BALLOT SUMMARY: “Expands current restrictions on lobbying for compensation by former public officers; creates restrictions on lobbying for compensation by serving public officers and former justices and judges; provides exceptions; prohibits abuse of a public position by public officers and employees to obtain a personal benefit.” 

What it’s about:

Proposed Florida Constitutional Amendment 12 “bundles” the most proposals of any of the other multi-topic Amendments on the Nov. 6 ballot. and voters will have only one yes or no vote to cast. What has raised the most eyebrows about Amendment 12 is a proposal to extend the ban on Florida public officials becoming lobbyists from two years to six years after they leave their position.

Amendment 12 deals with ethics and lobbying restrictions and sets out more detailed instructions governing how public officials become lobbyists in Florida.

This Amendment would:

  1. Set out a sweeping definition of “public officer” to include any statewide elected officer, member of the Legislature, county commissioner, school board member and other governing positions.
  2. Prohibit public officers – while in office – from lobbying any political agency or governing body for anything related to policy, appropriations, or procurement (obtaining goods or services, sometimes through a competitive bidding process).
  3. Make public officers wait six years before becoming lobbyists in the state; includes rules detailing the types of government agencies these officials must wait six years before lobbying.
  4. Prohibit public officers or employees from using their positions to “disproportionally benefit” themselves, their families, or businesses they may be involved in. The Florida Commission on Ethics will define what a “disproportionate benefit” is.
  5. Prohibit judges and justices from lobbying state government for six years after leaving the bench.

Who’s for it:

Nonprofit government watchdog group Integrity Florida, former Florida Sen. Don Gaetz who served on the Constitution Revision Commission that sponsored this Amendment, other groups interested in government ethics.

Who’s against it:

A group called Save My Constitution, made up of former lawmakers, opposes all the proposed Constitution Revision Commission Amendments on the November ballot.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce says everything in Amendment 12 can be achieved through a legislative process and it is unnecessary for the proposals to be “permanently incorporated into Florida’s Constitution.”

Other key points:

Right now, any statewide elected official or member of the Legislature must wait two years before registering as lobbyists.

If Amendment 12 passes, the Florida Commission on Ethics would need to define by Oct. 1, 2019, what a “disproportionate benefit” is and what penalties are involved. The proposal would then take effect Dec. 31, 2020.

The changes to lobbying practices in Amendment 12 would take effect Dec. 31, 2022.

Amendment 11 needs 60 percent of the vote to pass.

About this Florida Phoenix series: Florida voters could face a whopping twelve different proposed amendments to the state Constitution on Nov. 6 – one of the longest lists ever. The amendments cover a wild ride of subjects, including complex changes to tax policy, banning offshore oil drilling and greyhound racing, expanding gambling, automatically restoring voting rights for ex-felons, setting new rules on lobbying, and even whether Florida should ban vaping in public places. 

Even more challenging is that some of the amendments “bundle” several different ideas into one, meaning voters might be forced to vote for a thing they don’t like in order to approve something they want, or vice versa. (Plus, three of the amendments are mired in a legal challenge that’s before the Florida Supreme Court.)

It’s confusing, and the Phoenix is going to try in the coming days to briefly lay out all these amendments for you, explain what they will do, and tell you who supports it and who opposes it.  

 

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