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Weatherford: Embrace most of Senate ethics bill and lower campaign caps

House Speaker Will Weatherford said Thursday the House Ethics and Elections Committee next week will take up a bill that embraces most of the Senate's ethics bill and another that will "dramatically" reduce the the $10,000 cap on campaign contributions.

Gov. Rick Scott said Wednesday he could not support the House cap on campaign contributions and Weatherford said a new version, which is being drafted now, "will have that number come down dramatically."

In its place will be a tiered cap, Weatherford told the Herald/Times. A similar bill (SB 1382) has been proposed by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-St. Petersburg, that would raise contributions from $500 to $3,000 for statewide offices such as governor, Cabinet and Supreme Court merit retention races but leave the cap at $500 for legislative and countywide races. The Senate bill is scheduled for a hearing on Monday.

But, Weatherford said, the House proposed caps will be higher. Latvala's proposed levels "are better but still too low,'' he said. "If we have the $500 cap, we can all pat ourselves on the back and say that's great we're having cap but there's no cap on (Scott's political committee) 'Let's Get to Work,''' or on other electioneering and communications organizations that are regulated under federal law.

"So all the money is going there because it's harder to get a lot of $500 checks,'' he said. "So I think it's better to have money go to personal campaigns rather than third party entities and I think the governor understands that and will work with us on it."

Weatherford said he expects the governor to be "amenable to higher caps" than the current $500 per person limit. "I think he's uncomfortable with a $10,000 number but that number's going to come down pretty dramatically,'' he told the Herald/Times. 

Weatherford also met with four of his top deputies Thursday to discuss the House's changes to SB 2, the top priority bill of Senate President Don Gaetz which was passed out of the Senate on the first day of the legislative session on Tuesday. The House will take most of the bill except the piece that makes changes to the Committees of Continuous Existence. The House is pushing through another bill HB 569, that will eliminate CCEs and raise the campaign contribution caps in exchange for more disclosure. 

"What the Senate president has worked on is a good product,'' Weatherford told Reps. Jim Boyd, Steven Precourt, Dana Young, and Steve Crisafulli at a meeting in his office on Thursday. "I think what they sent us is a good one and if there's a way to make it better we should." 

The meeting, which was subject to the state open meetings law, was not noticed because it was arranged at the last minute, said Weatherford spokesman Ryan Duffy.