Two state Senators say don’t audit lobbyists, repeal the law

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The move by the Florida Legislature to impose a little-used authority for auditing lobbyists could come with a $1 million price tag; leading a pair of Senators to call for a repeal of the 2005 ethics reform legislation.

Heightened media exposure of the $120.4 million spent by lobbying firms so far in 2013 forced legislators to re-examine the law, as an oversight on the people who try to get in with Florida politicians and lawmakers.

According to Orlando Sentinel ‘s Aaron Deslatte, lobbying firms will have to open their books for the first time since the state enacted the bill.

Although some believe that auditing would bring “clarity” to reporting, two state Senators do not think audits are a good idea.

“What benefit are my taxpayers going to gain from having this information and is it worth the price we’re going to have to pay to get it?” Sen. Alan Hays said. The Republican for Umatilla compared auditing private businesses to scrutinizing chicken farmers.

 “Do we need to know how many chicken eggs he counted last night?”

Sen. Jeremy Ring suggested the Legislature pass a bill to repeal auditing requirements.

“I just don’t think the Legislature should be auditing a private business,” the Democrat from Margate said. The Sentinel reports that Ring, during a Senate committee he chairs, also proposed filing a committee bill to repeal lobbyist auditing, and repealing the entire compensation reporting requirement for lobbyists is not out of the question.

“That’s a bigger question. I guess I did open the door,” Ring told reporters, saying, “The Legislature goes a little too far on stuff like that. It’s a private business.”

“They’re the sales people. We’re the buyers. The onus is on us” to act sensibly.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.