Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Unanimously Approves Legislation to Protect Consumers From Deceptive and Misleading Charities
Tallahassee, FL – The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Finance and Tax today unanimously passed a bill proposed by Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam to protect consumers from fraudulent and deceptive charity activities.
“From veterans to children battling cancer, there are many worthy charitable causes that deserve our support. Unfortunately, there are a few organizations that prey on generous Floridians in the name of these charitable causes, but contribute little if anything toward the cause they claim to support,” said Commissioner Putnam. “Thank you to Sen. Jeff Brandes and members of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Finance and Tax for helping us crack down on these fraudulent and deceptive organizations and empower Floridians to make more informed decisions when it comes to charitable giving.”
The legislation would:
- Ban organizations that have violated certain laws in other states from soliciting funds in Florida.
- Prohibit felons from soliciting funds for charity.
- Require professional solicitors who operate like telemarketers to provide fingerprints for background checks, submit scripts used to conduct solicitations and report the percentage of contributions collected that will be provided to the charity.
- Require charities that receive more than $500,000 in a year to submit an independently reviewed financial statement, and those that receive more than $1 million in a year to provide an independently audited financial statement. An IRS Form 990 may be submitted instead of the financial statement.
- If a charity receives more than $1 million, but spends less than 25 percent on its cause, it will be required to provide even more information, including board members and family relationships between board members and staff. The charity will also lose its sales tax exemption.
- Increase fines for fraudulent or deceptive acts in violation of the law.
The legislation, filed as SB 638 and by Rep. Jim Boyd as HB 629, would also create an interactive online database where consumers can access the information charities will be required to report. Information made available online would include: leadership, location, contact information, financial reports and actions taken by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for violations. With this information, Floridians can make informed decisions when choosing which organizations deserve their support
Today’s committee hearing was the second stop for SB 638. It was passed by the Senate Committee on Commerce and Tourism on February 10. In addition, HB 629 was passed by the House Business and Professional Regulation Subcommittee on February 19 and the House Appropriations Committee on March 13. The bill has one final committee stop in each of the two chambers – the Senate Appropriations Committee and the House Regulatory Affairs Committee.
To find more information on the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, visit www.FreshFromFlorida.com.