by Tia Mitchell
Lobbyists would be required to file paperwork before speaking with a member of the Florida House or a staff member about issues that may come up for a vote, according to a proposal from incoming House Speaker Richard Corcoran.
“We will be the most open and accountable legislature in the entire country,” Corcoran said Monday. “The public rightly believes that lobbyists have too much power. We can and will fix that — any disclosure requirements the House adopts will be more than cosmetic or superficial. Of that you can be sure.”
Under the guidelines, lobbyists would be required to submit “notice of appearance” paperwork before they meet for the first time with anyone in the House of Representatives on an issue or about legislation. The notice will include information about which business or entity the lobbyist represents and the bill number or amendment he or she hopes to influence. When it comes to the budget, lobbyists would be required to list the particular sections or issues that are of interest to them before lobbying can commence. That information would be made available on the House’s official website for the public to access.
Lobbyists would not have to disclose which legislators or staff members they are meeting with on an issue.
“As a student of the process and a believer in the process, I commend Speaker-designate Richard Corcoran for his desire to restore transparency and civility to the process,” Tallahassee-based lobbyist Darrick McGhee said. “It is always a hopeful desire that the listening and viewing public of the state of Florida has the utmost confidence in the work being done in the three branches of government, but also amongst the lobbying arena.”
The Times-Union obtained information about Corcoran’s proposal through a source close to the speaker. Although his statement doesn’t speak directly to the new rules, the speaker’s office did not deny that the description of the speaker’s proposal was accurate.
House members will receive an overview of the proposal later this week and will be asked to sign off by a majority vote at the Nov. 22 organizational meeting. Unless the Senate chooses to do the same, the new rules would only affect lobbying in the House.
The rules would impact those lobbyists who are already required to register with the state. Existing rules already compel registered lobbyists to disclose who they work for and a rough idea of how much they are paid.
So what happens if a lobbyist is speaking to a lawmaker on one issue and then another topic comes up for which the proper paperwork hasn’t been filed? That lobbyist would need to step away briefly in order to fill out the required “notice of appearance” form online using a smartphone before resuming the conversation.
The “notice of appearance” rules are part of Corcoran’s slate of transparency changes that have been released in recent days. Earlier Monday, the Miami Herald reported that Corcoran planned to ban House members from texting while they are in legislative meetings to keep them from communicating with lobbyists.
FloridaPolitics.com wrote two days ago that Corcoran also plans to require House members to file a bill for every separate budget request they make.
The Tampa Bay Times reported last week that Corcoran may also be eyeing limitations on access lobbyists hired by cities and counties will have to House members and staff. The City of Jacksonville contracted with three firms in 2016 to push the pension-tax bill. [READ MORE]