112.3215 Lobbying before the executive branch or the Constitution Revision Commission; registration and reporting; investigation by commission.—
(1) For the purposes of this section:
(a) “Agency” means the Governor, Governor and Cabinet, or any department, division, bureau, board, commission, or authority of the executive branch. In addition, “agency” shall mean the Constitution Revision Commission as provided by s. 2, Art. XI of the State Constitution.
(b) “Agency official” or “employee” means any individual who is required by law to file full or limited public disclosure of his or her financial interests.
(c) “Compensation” means a payment, distribution, loan, advance, reimbursement, deposit, salary, fee, retainer, or anything of value provided or owed to a lobbying firm, directly or indirectly, by a principal for any lobbying activity.
(d) “Expenditure” means a payment, distribution, loan, advance, reimbursement, deposit, or anything of value made by a lobbyist or principal for the purpose of lobbying. The term “expenditure” does not include contributions or expenditures reported pursuant to chapter 106 or contributions or expenditures reported pursuant to federal election law, campaign-related personal services provided without compensation by individuals volunteering their time, any other contribution or expenditure made by or to a political party or an affiliated party committee, or any other contribution or expenditure made by an organization that is exempt from taxation under 26 U.S.C. s. 527 or s. 501(c)(4).
(e) “Fund” means the Executive Branch Lobby Registration Trust Fund.
(f) “Lobbies” means seeking, on behalf of another person, to influence an agency with respect to a decision of the agency in the area of policy or procurement or an attempt to obtain the goodwill of an agency official or employee. “Lobbies” also means influencing or attempting to influence, on behalf of another, the Constitution Revision Commission’s action or nonaction through oral or written communication or an attempt to obtain the goodwill of a member or employee of the Constitution Revision Commission.
(g) “Lobbying firm” means a business entity, including an individual contract lobbyist, that receives or becomes entitled to receive any compensation for the purpose of lobbying, where any partner, owner, officer, or employee of the business entity is a lobbyist.
(h) “Lobbyist” means a person who is employed and receives payment, or who contracts for economic consideration, for the purpose of lobbying, or a person who is principally employed for governmental affairs by another person or governmental entity to lobby on behalf of that other person or governmental entity. “Lobbyist” does not include a person who is:
1. An attorney, or any person, who represents a client in a judicial proceeding or in a formal administrative proceeding conducted pursuant to chapter 120 or any other formal hearing before an agency, board, commission, or authority of this state.
2. An employee of an agency or of a legislative or judicial branch entity acting in the normal course of his or her duties.
3. A confidential informant who is providing, or wishes to provide, confidential information to be used for law enforcement purposes.
4. A person who lobbies to procure a contract pursuant to chapter 287 which contract is less than the threshold for CATEGORY ONE as provided in s. 287.017.
(i) “Principal” means the person, firm, corporation, or other entity which has employed or retained a lobbyist.
(2) The Executive Branch Lobby Registration Trust Fund is hereby created within the commission to be used for the purpose of funding any office established to administer the registration of lobbyists lobbying an agency, including the payment of salaries and other expenses. The trust fund is not subject to the service charge to General Revenue provisions of chapter 215. All annual registration fees collected pursuant to this section shall be deposited into such fund.
(3) A person may not lobby an agency until such person has registered as a lobbyist with the commission. Such registration shall be due upon initially being retained to lobby and is renewable on a calendar year basis thereafter. Upon registration the person shall provide a statement signed by the principal or principal’s representative that the registrant is authorized to represent the principal. The principal shall also identify and designate its main business on the statement authorizing that lobbyist pursuant to a classification system approved by the commission. The registration shall require each lobbyist to disclose, under oath, the following information:
(a) Name and business address;
(b) The name and business address of each principal represented;
(c) His or her area of interest;
(d) The agencies before which he or she will appear; and
(e) The existence of any direct or indirect business association, partnership, or financial relationship with any employee of an agency with which he or she lobbies, or intends to lobby, as disclosed in the registration.
(4) The annual lobbyist registration fee shall be set by the commission by rule, not to exceed $40 for each principal represented.
(5)(a)1. Each lobbying firm shall file a compensation report with the commission for each calendar quarter during any portion of which one or more of the firm’s lobbyists were registered to represent a principal. The report shall include the:
a. Full name, business address, and telephone number of the lobbying firm;
b. Name of each of the firm’s lobbyists; and
c. Total compensation provided or owed to the lobbying firm from all principals for the reporting period, reported in one of the following categories: $0; $1 to $49,999; $50,000 to $99,999; $100,000 to $249,999; $250,000 to $499,999; $500,000 to $999,999; $1 million or more.
2. For each principal represented by one or more of the firm’s lobbyists, the lobbying firm’s compensation report shall also include the:
a. Full name, business address, and telephone number of the principal; and
b. Total compensation provided or owed to the lobbying firm for the reporting period, reported in one of the following categories: $0; $1 to $9,999; $10,000 to $19,999; $20,000 to $29,999; $30,000 to $39,999; $40,000 to $49,999; or $50,000 or more. If the category “$50,000 or more” is selected, the specific dollar amount of compensation must be reported, rounded up or down to the nearest $1,000.
3. If the lobbying firm subcontracts work from another lobbying firm and not from the original principal:
a. The lobbying firm providing the work to be subcontracted shall be treated as the reporting lobbying firm’s principal for reporting purposes under this paragraph; and
b. The reporting lobbying firm shall, for each lobbying firm identified under subparagraph 2., identify the name and address of the principal originating the lobbying work.
4. The senior partner, officer, or owner of the lobbying firm shall certify to the veracity and completeness of the information submitted pursuant to this paragraph.
(b) For each principal represented by more than one lobbying firm, the commission shall aggregate the reporting-period and calendar-year compensation reported as provided or owed by the principal.
(c) The reporting statements shall be filed no later than 45 days after the end of each reporting period. The four reporting periods are from January 1 through March 31, April 1 through June 30, July 1 through September 30, and October 1 through December 31, respectively. Reporting statements must be filed by electronic means as provided in s. 112.32155.
(d) The commission shall provide by rule the grounds for waiving a fine, the procedures by which a lobbying firm that fails to timely file a report shall be notified and assessed fines, and the procedure for appealing the fines. The rule shall provide for the following:
1. Upon determining that the report is late, the person designated to review the timeliness of reports shall immediately notify the lobbying firm as to the failure to timely file the report and that a fine is being assessed for each late day. The fine shall be $50 per day per report for each late day up to a maximum of $5,000 per late report.
2. Upon receipt of the report, the person designated to review the timeliness of reports shall determine the amount of the fine due based upon the earliest of the following:
a. When a report is actually received by the lobbyist registration and reporting office.
b. When the electronic receipt issued pursuant to s. 112.32155 is dated.
3. Such fine shall be paid within 30 days after the notice of payment due is transmitted by the Lobbyist Registration Office, unless appeal is made to the commission. The moneys shall be deposited into the Executive Branch Lobby Registration Trust Fund.
4. A fine shall not be assessed against a lobbying firm the first time any reports for which the lobbying firm is responsible are not timely filed. However, to receive the one-time fine waiver, all reports for which the lobbying firm is responsible must be filed within 30 days after the notice that any reports have not been timely filed is transmitted by the Lobbyist Registration Office. A fine shall be assessed for any subsequent late-filed reports.
5. Any lobbying firm may appeal or dispute a fine, based upon unusual circumstances surrounding the failure to file on the designated due date, and may request and shall be entitled to a hearing before the commission, which shall have the authority to waive the fine in whole or in part for good cause shown. Any such request shall be made within 30 days after the notice of payment due is transmitted by the Lobbyist Registration Office. In such case, the lobbying firm shall, within the 30-day period, notify the person designated to review the timeliness of reports in writing of his or her intention to bring the matter before the commission.
6. The person designated to review the timeliness of reports shall notify the commission of the failure of a lobbying firm to file a report after notice or of the failure of a lobbying firm to pay the fine imposed. All lobbyist registrations for lobbyists who are partners, owners, officers, or employees of a lobbying firm that fails to timely pay a fine are automatically suspended until the fine is paid or waived, and the commission shall promptly notify all affected principals of each suspension and each reinstatement.
7. Notwithstanding any provision of chapter 120, any fine imposed under this subsection that is not waived by final order of the commission and that remains unpaid more than 60 days after the notice of payment due or more than 60 days after the commission renders a final order on the lobbying firm’s appeal shall be collected by the Department of Financial Services as a claim, debt, or other obligation owed to the state, and the department may assign the collection of such fine to a collection agent as provided in s. 17.20.
(e) Each lobbying firm and each principal shall preserve for a period of 4 years all accounts, bills, receipts, computer records, books, papers, and other documents and records necessary to substantiate compensation. Any documents and records retained pursuant to this section may be subpoenaed for audit by the Legislative Auditing Committee pursuant to s. 11.40, and such subpoena may be enforced in circuit court.
(6)(a) Notwithstanding s. 112.3148, s. 112.3149, or any other provision of law to the contrary, no lobbyist or principal shall make, directly or indirectly, and no agency official, member, or employee shall knowingly accept, directly or indirectly, any expenditure.
(b) No person shall provide compensation for lobbying to any individual or business entity that is not a lobbying firm.
(7) A lobbyist shall promptly send a written statement to the commission canceling the registration for a principal upon termination of the lobbyist’s representation of that principal. Notwithstanding this requirement, the commission may remove the name of a lobbyist from the list of registered lobbyists if the principal notifies the office that a person is no longer authorized to represent that principal.
(8)(a) The commission shall investigate every sworn complaint that is filed with it alleging that a person covered by this section has failed to register, has failed to submit a compensation report, has made a prohibited expenditure, or has knowingly submitted false information in any report or registration required in this section.
(b) All proceedings, the complaint, and other records relating to the investigation are confidential and exempt from the provisions of s. 119.07(1) and s. 24(a), Art. I of the State Constitution, and any meetings held pursuant to an investigation are exempt from the provisions of s. 286.011(1) and s. 24(b), Art. I of the State Constitution either until the alleged violator requests in writing that such investigation and associated records and meetings be made public or until the commission determines, based on the investigation, whether probable cause exists to believe that a violation has occurred.
(c) The commission shall investigate any lobbying firm, lobbyist, principal, agency, officer, or employee upon receipt of information from a sworn complaint or from a random audit of lobbying reports indicating a possible violation other than a late-filed report.
(d)1. Records relating to an audit conducted pursuant to this section or an investigation conducted pursuant to this section or s. 112.32155 are confidential and exempt from s. 119.07(1) and s. 24(a), Art. I of the State Constitution.
2. Any portion of a meeting wherein such investigation or audit is discussed is exempt from s. 286.011 and s. 24(b), Art. I of the State Constitution.
3. The exemptions no longer apply if the lobbying firm requests in writing that such investigation and associated records and meetings be made public or the commission determines there is probable cause that the audit reflects a violation of the reporting laws.
(9) If the commission finds no probable cause to believe that a violation of this section occurred, it shall dismiss the complaint, whereupon the complaint, together with a written statement of the findings of the investigation and a summary of the facts, shall become a matter of public record, and the commission shall send a copy of the complaint, findings, and summary to the complainant and the alleged violator. If, after investigating information from a random audit of lobbying reports, the commission finds no probable cause to believe that a violation of this section occurred, a written statement of the findings of the investigation and a summary of the facts shall become a matter of public record, and the commission shall send a copy of the findings and summary to the alleged violator. If the commission finds probable cause to believe that a violation occurred, it shall report the results of its investigation to the Governor and Cabinet and send a copy of the report to the alleged violator by certified mail. Such notification and all documents made or received in the disposition of the complaint shall then become public records. Upon request submitted to the Governor and Cabinet in writing, any person whom the commission finds probable cause to believe has violated any provision of this section shall be entitled to a public hearing. Such person shall be deemed to have waived the right to a public hearing if the request is not received within 14 days following the mailing of the probable cause notification. However, the Governor and Cabinet may on its own motion require a public hearing and may conduct such further investigation as it deems necessary.
(10) If the Governor and Cabinet find that a violation occurred, the Governor and Cabinet may reprimand the violator, censure the violator, or prohibit the violator from lobbying all agencies for a period not to exceed 2 years. If the violator is a lobbying firm, lobbyist, or principal, the Governor and Cabinet may also assess a fine of not more than $5,000 to be deposited in the Executive Branch Lobby Registration Trust Fund.
(11) Any person who is required to be registered or to provide information under this section or under rules adopted pursuant to this section and who knowingly fails to disclose any material fact that is required by this section or by rules adopted pursuant to this section, or who knowingly provides false information on any report required by this section or by rules adopted pursuant to this section, commits a noncriminal infraction, punishable by a fine not to exceed $5,000. Such penalty is in addition to any other penalty assessed by the Governor and Cabinet pursuant to subsection (10).
(12) Any person, when in doubt about the applicability and interpretation of this section to himself or herself in a particular context, may submit in writing the facts of the situation to the commission with a request for an advisory opinion to establish the standard of duty. An advisory opinion shall be rendered by the commission and, until amended or revoked, shall be binding on the conduct of the person who sought the opinion, unless material facts were omitted or misstated in the request.
(13) Agencies shall be diligent to ascertain whether persons required to register pursuant to this section have complied. An agency may not knowingly permit a person who is not registered pursuant to this section to lobby the agency.
(14) Upon discovery of violations of this section an agency or any person may file a sworn complaint with the commission.
(15) The commission shall adopt rules to administer this section, which shall prescribe forms for registration and compensation reports, procedures for registration, and procedures that will prevent disclosure of information that is confidential as provided in this section.
History.—s. 2, ch. 89-325; s. 3, ch. 90-268; s. 29, ch. 90-360; s. 5, ch. 91-292; s. 2, ch. 92-35; s. 6, ch. 93-121; s. 705, ch. 95-147; s. 1, ch. 95-357; s. 2, ch. 96-203; s. 38, ch. 96-406; s. 1, ch. 97-12; s. 2, ch. 2000-232; s. 131, ch. 2003-261; ss. 5, 6, ch. 2005-359; s. 1, ch. 2005-361; ss. 12, 13, 14, ch. 2006-275; s. 6, ch. 2010-151; ss. 29, 30, ch. 2011-6; s. 76, ch. 2011-40; s. 1, ch. 2011-178; HJR 7105, 2011 Regular Session; s. 3, ch. 2012-25; s. 16, ch. 2013-36; s. 17, ch. 2014-17.