The Florida Legislature recently passed Senate Bill 2, a wide-ranging ethics law that could affect companies that do business with state agencies and local governments in Florida.
The new law expands the authority of the Florida Commission on Ethics (COE) to investigate ethics complaints and further empowers the COE to collect unpaid fines from those who have violated ethics laws.
Although the new law focuses mainly on government officials, it also imposes ethics restrictions and reporting requirements on "vendors," which are broadly defined as entities doing business directly with a state agency or local government. This would include renting, leasing or selling any realty, goods or services. Florida's gift law previously only applied to companies employing lobbyists. Vendors are now barred from giving any gift valued at more than $100 to a state or local official or procurement employee regardless of whether the vendor employees a lobbyist. The law also prohibits state and local government officials and procurement employees from soliciting or receiving any gift from a vendor. Vendors found in violation of the new law are subject to civil penalties of up to $10,000.
The new law took effect on May 2, 2013, and is set forth in Chapter 2013-36, Laws of Florida.