Thursday, March 19, 2009

Bill by Senator Justice to Stop the Frivolous Use of Public Funds Passes Unanimously Through First Committee‏

Local governments’ inappropriate spending of public funds to advocate for or against an issue will be prohibited under a measure passed unanimously on Wednesday by the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee.

Sponsored by Senator Charlie Justice (D- St. Petersburg), Senate Bill 216 won approval after lobbyists for the cities and counties failed to defend the practice of using taxpayers’ money to campaign on referendum initiatives.

“It is philosophically wrong to use voters’ money to tell them how to vote,” Senator Justice said. “We owe it to our constituents to reign in this wasteful practice.”

Municipalities all over the state have waged countless campaigns fighting for and against various initiatives, often spending massive amounts of money to advocate a certain position. One instance in Volusia County pitted the cities against a county initiative to consolidate services. Ten cities poured more than $160,000 into a campaign to convince voters to defeat the initiative.

“In this rough economic time, public funds should be spent on services, education and infrastructure. Not political advertisements,” Senator Justice concluded.

Senate Bill 216 is up next in the Community Affairs committee. Representative Janet Long (D- St. Petersburg) is sponsoring the bill in the House.

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