By the time you read this, the Florida Legislature (barring unforeseen events) will have completed the 2021 Legislative Session. Under the leadership of Senate President Wilton Simpson and our Governor Ron DeSantis we have accomplished a lot and we have much to be grateful for in the great state of Florida. Your Senator’s role this year in steering the Ethics and Election Committee was great experience and the team that we have put together to work on those issues are world-class. We will highlight some of that work for you in today’s column.
We are very excited to report that your Senator’s priority bill, SB 90 was reported favorably through all of its committees and awaits a final vote on the house floor. This bill, which was highlighted in last month’s column, addresses a number of issues related to election administration and vote-by-mail. Since the original draft language, there have been a few changes made but we are still proud of the final product. One provision in SB 90 addresses ballot harvesting so that no person may possess a ballot other than his or her own, those of immediate family members and two other designated individuals. We have tightened up the security around drop boxes. Our bill requires that they only be used during early voting hours, and that they must be monitored, in person, at all times by staff or volunteers of our Supervisor of Elections. Also, the bill expands the timeframe for canvassing vote-by-mail ballots, providing that one vote-by-mail ballot request is good for all elections through the next regularly scheduled general election. Current law states that one request is good for all elections through the next two general elections. This change is necessary to provide voters with more flexibility to decide which method of voting they want to utilize, instead of being locked in for two cycles.
Just this week, in a unanimous vote, we also just passed our bill SB 82, which would require most political advertisements, independent expenditures, and electioneering communications sent by text message to carry a sponsorship disclaimer, or a URL address or hyperlink to a website containing the disclaimer. This simple bill is needed to promote transparency in campaign advertising and help preserve the integrity of our elections process.
SB 1890, another great bill coming out of our committee and filed by Senator Rodrigues adds political committees sponsoring or in opposition to constitutional amendments proposed by initiative to the list of entities subject to a $3,000 contribution limit from a person or political committee. Too often, we have seen our constitutional amendment process influenced heavily by out-of-state mega contributors that seek to bypass the Florida Legislature and enact policies that may be bad for Floridians while they themselves do not have to live with the consequences. Our state constitution is not a place for policy items. We are a republic, not a democracy and that means that we elect people to represent us and have the tough conversations while including the input they receive from their constituents.
Additionally, SB 1890 revises the authorized methods for disposing of surplus campaign funds and prohibits a candidate from donating such funds to a charitable organization by which he or she is employed.
Thank you letting me sit in your seat in the Florida Senate and for joining with me in protecting faith, family, freedom, opportunity and life itself.
Onward & Upward,
Senator Dennis Baxley