TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A bill that would raise statewide campaign contribution limits from $500 to $3,000 per election cycle while requiring candidates to more often report who gives them money and how it is spent was passed by the Senate Wednesday.
Contribution limits to legislative and local candidates would increase from $500 to $1,000 per election cycle. The House was expected to vote on the bill later Wednesday.
Gov. Rick Scott's office previously has said he opposes any increase in contribution limits, but if he receives the bill Wednesday, he will have to veto or sign it in seven days. That means the Legislature can wait to see what he does before deciding whether to pass Scott's priorities, including eliminating a 6 percent sales tax on equipment bought by Florida manufacturers. Scott on Wednesday stopped short of saying he would veto the bill, but he continued to say he had problems with it.
"No one has shown me a rationale for raising these limits, so I don't know why we would be doing it," Scott said.
Sen. Jack Latvala said the measure (SB 1382) will provide more transparency to money in politics. Right now, candidates file campaign finance reports every three months until two months before a primary election, when they have to file reports every two weeks through the general election. The bill would require statewide candidates to file monthly reports, then weekly reports after the candidate qualifying period. Daily reports would have to be filed the last 10 days before the general election.
"There's going to be money in politics. You're not going to be able to take money out of politics," said Latvala, R-Palm Harbor. "The best we're going to be able to do in the long run is to provide transparency."
The bill also eliminates committees of continuing existence, or CCEs, which critics say some lawmakers use as a slush fund for travel, meals and entertaining that have nothing to do with the committees' political purposes. But lawmakers would still be able to form other political committees and take unlimited contributions. The bill, though, prohibits lawmakers from accepting gifts of any value from political committees.
The government accountability group Common Cause Florida criticized the bill.
"The bill passed today by the Senate does nothing to lessen the flow of money pumping through the political process at every turn and creates little transparency which was supposedly leadership's main goal," Brad Ashwell, the group's lobbyist, said in prepared statement. "It still invites more money into the political process in one area while doing nothing to limit money flowing through political committees or the parties."
During floor debate, Latvala said the higher contribution limits may mean more money goes directly to candidates rather than to political committees.
The bill passed 37-2, with Democratic Sens. Joseph Abruzzo of Wellington and Jeff Clemens of Lake Worth voting against it.
Clemens was opposed to a provision in the bill that would allow lawmakers to keep up to $20,000 in campaign money for their re-election. Right now lawmakers aren't allowed to rollover any campaign money. Opponents of the provision argued that it unfairly benefits incumbents.
Statewide campaign contribution limits would increase from $500 to $3,000 under a bill passed by the Florida Senate.
The bill (SB 1382) also raises contribution limits for legislative candidates from $500 to $1,000. It passed Wednesday on a 37-2 vote.
While raising limits, it also requires candidates to file campaign finance reports more often. Republican Sen. Jack Latvala of Palm Harbor said it will provide more transparency over who contributes to candidates and how the money is spent.
The bill also allows lawmakers to keep up to $20,000 for their re-election campaigns. They currently can't rollover campaign money for the next election.
Also, a type of political committee that critics say some lawmakers use as slush funds would be eliminated.