Sweeping charity reform passed a Senate committee in a unanimous vote that could help eliminate fraudulent and deceptive organizations from ripping off the public.
The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Finance & Tax put forward the bill proposed by Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam to protect consumers from unethical charities.
“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,” Putnam said.
Today’s committee hearing was the second stop for SB 638, which already passed the Senate Committee on Commerce and Tourism. HB 629 passed the House Business and Professional Regulation Subcommittee and the House Appropriations Committee, and one final committee stop in each of the two chambers – the Senate Appropriations Committee and the House Regulatory Affairs Committee.
- 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 act like telemarketers to provide fingerprints for background checks, submit scripts used to run 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 offer 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 additional 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 by Sen. Jeff Brandes and by Rep. Jim Boyd as HB 629 would also create an interactive online database for consumers to access the information charities will be required to report.
Information made available online includes leadership, location, contact information, financial reports and actions taken by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for violations. Floridians will be able to make informed decisions about choosing charities to help.
“Thank you to Sen. Jeff Brandes and members of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Finance and Tax for helping us break down on these fraudulent and deceptive organizations and empower Floridians to make more informed decisions when it comes to charitable giving,” Putnam added.