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Leadership funds becomes law as Senate overrides 30-9

A year after passing it for the first time, the Florida Senate voted 30-9 to override the veto of Gov. Charlie Crist's of a bill that would allow political leaders in the House and Senate the ability to raise unlimited amounts of money to steer into the campaigns of their handpicked candidates.

The measure passed along party lines, with Republicans favoring it and Democrats opposed, even though nearly one third of each chamber never heard the testimony on the original bill. The House had passed it 81-39. Republicans Sens. Paula Dockery and Mike Fasano in the Senate and voted no. Senate Democrats Gwen Margolis, Bill Montford, Jeremy Ring and Gary Siplin voted yes.

Sen. Jack Latvala said that when leadership funds were originally outlawed in 1989 the goal was to reduce the influence of money in the system but, as a long-time political operative and former state senator, he believe that goal failed.

“I have been involved in the political process a long time and I’ve seen the progression of campaign financing and the political process in Florida for all years’’ he said. “Since that time is when money has become a much more dominating factor in campaigns in the Legislature in Florida."

He predicted that the measure will allow the public "to see who is giving money to effect the outcome of legislative races…It’ll be transparent and anybody can track it and trace it.”

Sen. Nan Rich, the Senate Democratic leader, called the bill a smoke screen. She said the bill "will stack the deck even more" and concentrate power in hands of legislative leaders and increase their "ability to hold power over their members."