Senate President Don Gaetz (R-Destin) and House of Representatives Speaker Will Weatherford (R-Wesley Chapel) will be pursuing a single legislative agenda called “Work Plan Florida.” The five point plan includes campaign finance reform, elections reform, ethics reform, education reform and pension reform.
Campaign Finance Reform – To increase accountability and transparency in Florida’s election system, the House and Senate are considering a wide range of proposals. Some of those reforms include:
- Restricting lawmakers from using political committees for personal expenses to eliminating these committees outright.
- Revising the existing contribution limit of $500 to $10,000 or maintain the existing $500 limit.
- Requiring more frequent disclosure of all contributions and expenditures by candidates and political parties from quarterly to monthly or weekly.
Elections Reform – After another national election night with Florida uncomfortably exposed in the news spotlight last November, Governor Rick Scott, Secretary of State Ken Detzner, the state’s sixty-seven supervisors of elections and others, including the League of Women Voters, have moved quickly to make recommendations to address some of the more visible concerns. Possible solutions include:
- Increasing the number of early voting days from eight days to a maximum of 14 days, including the option for supervisors of elections to open polls on the Sunday before Election Day.
- Adding as many as 72 additional early voting hours to the election cycle’s voting period.
- Expanding the locations of early voting sites. Additional government facilities such as courthouses, county commission buildings, civic centers, convention centers and stadiums are under consideration.
- Shortening the length of the ballot by setting a word limit for descriptions of constitutional amendments.
Ethics Reform – Rebuilding trust and confidence in Florida’s elected officials by imposing tougher ethics rules is at the heart of the ethics reform proposals. Among the proposals are:
- Keeping lawmakers from voting on items where they have a financial conflict of interest.
- Prohibiting lawmakers from lobbying the executive branch state agencies after they are out of office; now, they are only prohibited from lobbying the Legislature.
- Garnishing wages and imposing liens on property to collect fines from violators.
- Allowing the governor, state attorneys and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to refer cases to the Ethics Commission.
- Extending the statute of limitations from the current four years to twenty years.
- Posting public officials’ financial disclosure information on-line.
- Enhancing the state’s on-line database to include all local candidate information as well as statewide candidate information.
Education – Issues relating to virtual learning, charter schools and funding will always remain hot button issues in the Legislature. A proponent of school choice, Speaker Will Weatherford will focus on increasing on-line learning opportunities at the K-12 to university levels. Senate President Gaetz has proposed the Career and Professional Education Act, which would create a statewide partnership between business and education to expand and retain high-value industries through education.
Pension Reform – The Florida Supreme Court’s recent ruling allowing public employee contributions to the state pension fund cleared the way for the Governor and Legislature to pursue more changes in the state retirement system, including requiring all new state employees to be placed into a 401(k)-type plan. Intended to bring the state’s retirement system more in line with the private sector, the state currently offers this plan to new workers in addition to the traditional Florida Retirement System pension plan.