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Florida's proposed 6-year lobbying ban would be strictest of any state

The Florida House's proposed six-year ban on lobbying by legislators and high-level state officers would be the strictest ban of its kind in the country, and no other state even comes close, a state-by-state analysis shows.

The National Conference of State Legislatures has published an informative report of post-employment lobbying restrictions in all 50 states, which shows that at least 34 states have a form of a cooling-off period but none is more than two years, which is what's in current Florida law and the Constitution. The NCSL report is here.

Some states have no restrictions. A legislator can retire Friday and start lobbying the following Monday in Idaho, Illinois and Kansas, for example.

Passage of the six-year lobbying ban in Florida is a top priority of House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes. The two bills, HB 7001 and 7003, passed the House Public Integrity & Ethics Committee on 18-0 votes -- making this is an excellent example of a legislative proposal that few if any lawmakers will be able to vote against.

There will likely be good debate about restricting anyone's legal right to seek employment, and approval by 60 percent of voters is needed to change the Constitution.

But to oppose Corcoran's measures is to antagonize the speaker while endorsing the existing "revolving door" culture, which is largely indefensible. Some former lawmakers return after two years to lobby their former colleagues, trading on personal relationships made in the House and in some cases calling in IOUs in return for past chairmanship appointments, votes or other favors.

It's the way every Legislature and Congress has operated, but as Corcoran promised on Nov. 22, the day he was sworn in as speaker, "It all ends." The House ban would apply only to legislators who held office after Nov. 8, 2016, or who held an appointed state office, such as a state agency head, after July 1, 2017.

The six-year ban has not been filed in the Senate, but as a Corcoran priority it will have to be considered at some point by Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart. Generally speaking, if no comparable Senate bill exists, the issue would be handled by the Senate committee chair in charge of ethics bills, and in this case it's freshman Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples.