Ben Wilcox, research director of Integrity Florida, issued the following statement about Senate Bill 1372, which will be heard in the Senate Rules Committee at noon today. The bill would preempt to the state any local government regulation of campaign contributions and expenditures to and from political committees, as well as any attempts by local governments to set contribution limits that are lower than those allowed by the state.
“Integrity Florida’s latest research report titled “Preemption Strategy – the Attack on Home Rule in Florida” details how the increasing use of preemption by the Florida legislature is stripping local governments of the home-rule ability to respond to the needs and concerns of their citizens. It also documents how wealthy corporate interest groups use campaign contributions and lobbying expenditures to buy political influence to promote this attack on home-rule in the Florida legislature.
Of the more than 41 preemption bills filed in the 2020 legislative session, SB 1372 is one of the most sneaky and egregious. The preemption provision in the bill was added as an amendment to what began as an otherwise noncontroversial elections bill.
The bill would preempt limitations or restrictions by local governments on campaign contributions that “differ” from the limits allowed by state law. That would include local governments like the City of Tallahassee where 67% of its citizens adopted a charter amendment in 2013 reducing the campaign contribution limit for city races from the $1,000 limit allowed by the state to $250.
It would also preempt to the state attempts by local governments to bring more transparency to local elections by eliminating so-called “dark money” or unlimited contributions from unnamed contributors. The St. Petersburg City Council overwhelming adopted such a measure in 2017, prohibiting contributions from super PACs and heavily foreign-influenced entities. The “Defend our Democracy” ordinance, which is nationally considered a major campaign finance reform victory, would be voided under Senate Bill 1372.
Ironically, the sponsor of this heavy-handed preemption legislation is Senator Jeff Brandes who represents the City of St. Petersburg. We urge Senator Brandes to strip the preemption language from the bill, aligning it with the clear intent of his constituents.
Like many of the other 41-plus preemption bills filed this year, Senate Bill 1372 bullies’ local governments and prevents them from being responsive to the needs and concerns of their constituents. Should the cites of Tallahassee and St. Petersburg be punished for acting on behalf of their citizens to reduce the corrupting influence of money in politics in local elections?
We think local governments should be encouraged to take a stand for the integrity of their elections, rather than face attacks from state legislators and the wealthy campaign donors who are backing this preemption bill.”
Integrity Florida is a nonpartisan research institute and government watchdog whose mission is to promote integrity in government and expose public corruption. More information at www.integrityflorida.org.