Travel Expenses, Reporting and Financial Disclosure (Oppose – Preemption)

Travel Expenses, Reporting and Financial Disclosure (Oppose – Preemption)

CS/CS/CS/HB 815 (Public Integrity & Ethics Committee) and CS/CS/SB 1180 (Steube) would impose travel prohibitions, travel reimbursement limits and travel reporting requirements on municipal officers and employees, and would also revise elections reporting requirements and financial disclosure requirements for elected municipal officers and candidates for elected municipal office.  

Travel: The bills require any out-of-state travel request by a municipal public officer to be approved by the municipal governing body at a public meeting. The travel request must be included on the public meeting agenda, along with an itemized list of anticipated travel expenses and costs. An opportunity for public testimony must be provided prior to a vote on the request. Authorized travel expenses may include only those expenses incurred by the officer 24 hours prior to the event and within 24 hours after the event necessitating the travel.  SB 1180 would limit lodging reimbursement for travel within or outside the state by municipal officers or employees to $120 per day. The bills prohibit reimbursement of any expenses for foreign travel by municipal officers or employees. Finally, the bills would require all municipal public officers to file travel expense reports, including an explanation of the necessity for the travel, with the municipality’s or county’s ethics commission, or with the state Commission on Ethics if a county or municipal ethics commission is not established. HB 815 was amended to exclude elected county constitutional officers from the travel restrictions and reporting requirements of the bill, and the $120 cap for lodging costs was removed.

Financial Disclosure: SB 1180 would require all elected municipal officers, as well as candidates for elective municipal office, to file full public disclosure of financial interests (Form 6).  Beginning January 1, 2019, HB 815 would require all elected municipal officers to file full public disclosure of financial interests (Form 6). In addition, the bills would require a current elected municipal officer who is a candidate for elective office to provide any reports filed pursuant to the Florida Elections Code to the municipality that he or she serves for posting on the municipality’s website. 

CS/CS/SB 1180 was substantially amended and most of the original provisions eliminated. As amended, the bill would require elected public officials, as a condition of seeking reimbursement for anticipated travel expenses, to obtain prior approval of the governing body at a regular public meeting for out-of-state and international travel. The bill authorizes post-travel ratification by the governing body if “good cause” is shown. The travel request must be accompanied by an itemization of anticipated travel expenses. Travel approvals must be posted on the local government’s website within 10 days of approval and remain posted until the end of the next calendar quarter. CS/CS/CS/HB 815 was amended to include the narrowed language of the Senate bill. It was further amended on the House floor to expressly require counties and municipalities to adopt uniform travel policies applicable to all public officials and employees, and to require municipal and county budgets to include a separate line item showing the total amount budgeted for travel for the entire municipality or county. (O’Hara)