Since 2005, Florida has had one of the strictest restrictions on lobbyists and principals giving gifts to state legislators. Except for “floral arrangements” or “other celebratory items” given on the opening day of regular session, the law flatly prohibits a lobbyist or principal from making “any expenditure” with respect to a member or employee of the legislature. Certain members have expressed a concern that the current law doesn’t even allow them to accept a cup of coffee, leading to some awkward situations.
Today legislators begin considering a new attempt to relax the “legislative expenditure ban” when the Florida Senate Ethics and Elections Committee takes up SB 1634. The bill, as currently drafted, would allow legislators and their employees to accept the following:
- individual servings of nonalcoholic beverages;
- a single meal at an event at which the member or employee speaks or participates/moderates a discussion; and
- food and beverages provided at a “widely attended event,” as defined and subject to other conditions.
Amendments are already pending in the first committee, so expect the bill to change. And stay tuned as we continue to track these and other lobbyist gift law proposals percolating in state legislatures across the country this year.