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
Gary Landry, a spokesman for Florida Education
Association/United, said that's just the Republican Party's
"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
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,
Landry said it could not immediately be determined what the
impact on the union would be if Slade's interpretation
Both sides agreed on one thing: It will be up to the courts to
make the final decision on the law's effect. …