SB 766 (Perry) imposes mandatory lobbyist registration requirements on all governmental entities as defined in the bill, including all municipalities and counties. The bill also amends statutory meeting notice requirements for cities and counties.
The bill requires the Florida Commission on Ethics to create the Local Government Lobbyist Registration System, and beginning October 2020, any local government lobbyist registration ordinance or requirement is preempted by the state system. The bill defines lobbying and provides exceptions and specifies activities that do not constitute lobbying. It defines the term “lobbyist” and provides exceptions to the definition.
A person may not lobby a government entity (which includes any municipality or county) until the person has electronically registered as a lobbyist with the commission. The bill specifies information to be included in the lobbyist registration. Registration is renewable annually and must include authorization from each principal identified. The bill requires the commission to publish lobbyist registration information on the internet. It requires a governmental entity to make reasonable efforts to ascertain whether a person who lobbies that entity is registered with the commission. Upon discovery of a violation of requirements of these provisions, the bill authorizes a person or governmental entity to file a complaint with the commission. If probable cause is found, a person may be subject to reprimand, censure, assessed a civil penalty not to exceed $500 per violation or suspension from lobbying for a specified period.
The bill prohibits a governmental entity from requiring classes, certifications or additional requirements as a requisite for lobbyist registration. It does, however, authorize a governmental entity to require lobbyist compensation reporting, disclosure of lobbyist contacts with government officials and authorizes restrictions on the exchange of money or things of value between lobbyists and government officials.
By January 2021, a governmental entity shall notify the commission of any local requirement that imposes additional or more stringent obligations with respect to lobbyist compensation reporting or other lobbying activities and provide this information and any associated forms to the commission. By January 2022, each governmental entity shall conform its lobbyist regulation system, if any, to the commission’s system to eliminate duplicative requirements. The bill authorizes the commission to adopt rules to implement its provisions.
Lastly, the bill amends statutory meeting notice requirements for municipalities and counties. Except in the case of emergency meetings, the governing body of a municipality or governing board county shall provide notice of any meeting of the body or board at least seven days in advance by posting a notice on body or board’s website. The meeting notice must include a statement of the general subject matter to be considered by the body or board. (O’Hara)