Word Amendment Made Last Session Now Getting Noticed

Article excerpt

TALLAHASSEE -- It was just a one-word change that attracted no

attention when it was made in the past legislative session, but

it's attracting plenty of attention now.

In the law prohibiting the making or acceptance of campaign

contributions in government buildings, the word "campaign" was

changed to "political."

Republican State Chairman Tom Slade of Orange Park pointed out

the change to teachers unions this week and advised them that

would keep them from soliciting money for their political action

committees on school grounds, as when cards authorizing payroll

deductions for that purpose are circulated.

Political action committees can make direct contributions to

candidates or make independent expenditures on their behalf.

Bob Sparks, the Republican Party's communications director,

said the change also would presumably prohibit the actual

deduction of the money, since that takes place on government

property.

Gary Landry, a spokesman for Florida Education

Association/United, said that's just the Republican Party's

interpretation.

"It was a technical amendment," Landry said. "Our lawyers are

taking a look at it now. It appears to be no change."

Sen. Fred Dudley, R-Cape Coral, said his amendment was aimed at

keeping legislators from soliciting funds for their political

parties in the Capitol, but he agreed with Slade that it would

also apply to unions soliciting in schools.

Dudley said it was ironic Slade would bring up the union

question when the amendment was directed at political parties.

Mike Cochran, a lawyer for the state Elections Division, said

the division will not render an opinion until it gets a formal

request.

Cochran said even under the old law, "campaign" contribution

might have been interpreted to apply to political action

committees, but no one raised the issue.

If someone wanted to charge a violation of the law, they would

have to file a complaint with the Florida Elections Commission,

Cochran said.

Landry said it could not immediately be determined what the

impact on the union would be if Slade's interpretation

prevailed.

Both sides agreed on one thing: It will be up to the courts to

make the final decision on the law's effect. …