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Open Government and the Importance of Lobbyists’ Transparency

by | Feb 15, 2018 | First Amendment, Media Law

Open government is the best government, and we are fortunate that Florida has some of the strongest open records laws and policies in the country. Though not perfect, they do a good job of promoting a more transparent and accountable government.

One such policy began in 2016 when Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, implemented new House rules. The new rules require lobbyists to register and publicly disclose who they’re lobbying for and what bills or amendments they hope to influence.

As a result, the public can see which bills are important to various interest groups and companies. Because of this, we know exactly who believes they may benefit or suffer because of a particular bill – and is willing to put up a large sum of money to ensure the bill’s success or failure.

This is crucial. Since the rise of term limits, now more than ever lobbyists can hold considerable sway in shaping not only policy but also spending. In fact, many state legislators work only part-time, so they rely heavily on lobbyists for information. These public records related to lobbyists help protect taxpayer dollars and ensure that decisions about public spending are transparent, reducing the chance that special interests will be able to cut secret deals to the detriment of others.

Here are some bills from this legislative session that seem to have attracted the most lobbyists according to the new registration rule.

  • HB 459 relates to public records and trade secrets. (108 lobbyists)
  • HB 37 clarifies that direct primary care agreements are not health insurance. (108 lobbyists)
  • HB 7009 limits attorney fee payouts for workers’ compensation. (132 lobbyists)
  • HB 19 repeals the personal injury protection (PIP) requirement for Florida drivers. (137 lobbyists)
  • HB 21 is Gov. Rick Scott’s bill, which limits opioid prescriptions for acute pain to three-day supplies and expands monitoring of doctors. (154 lobbyists)

In my next post, I’ll look more closely at the possible impact of one of these bills, HB 459, which relates to trade secrets and public records.


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