Monday, April 30, 2007
April 27, 2007
BY AARON DESLATTE
The Florida Senate voted Thursday to inject a dose of truth serum into the lawmaking process.
Lobbyists, lawmakers and staffers would be placed under oath every time they testify in legislative committees under the proposal the Senate passed 36-3.
Should they knowingly lie, they could face up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
To this point, people testifying were rarely placed under oath.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Alex Villalobos of Miami said the stern medicine was necessary because, too often, lawmakers act on what proves to be misleading information supplied by lobbyists.
"Lobbyists lie every day. They lie to all of us every day," he said.
But the Truth in Government Act drew strong rebukes from a few senators.
Sen. Al Lawson, D-Tallahassee, compared the bill to other proposals like the lobbyist gift ban passed in 2005 that some lawmakers feared voting against and getting bad press.
"This is the biggest conspiracy that I've ever seen," Lawson told lawmakers.
"It might seem funny right now, but I can guarantee you members, you are going to be asked, 'Are you telling the truth?' "
The bill wouldn't apply to members of the public who aren't lobbyists, lawmakers or legislative staff members.
Villalobos cited recent instances where lawmakers were told by lobbyists that medical malpractice and insurance reforms would lower rates -- in reality, they didn't -- as a problem only the threat of prison time could correct.
"Stop lying, because if you do you're going to be a guest of the state of Florida," Villalobos said.
Contact Deslatte at 850-222-8384 or firstname.lastname@example.org