Campaign Finance Reform, Other Research Reports, Latest Updates

Integrity Florida Report Calls the Florida PSC a “Captured” Regulatory Agency

No Comments 02 October 2017

Integrity Florida released a new research report examining the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) and many of the more controversial rate decisions the commission has made in recent years. Read the full report here.

The report, titled Florida’s “Public Service” Commission? A Captured Regulatory Agency, builds on key findings by proposing a series of policy reform options that would greatly improve the PSC’s ability to serve the people of Florida.

“Investor-owned utilities regulated by the PSC have an extraordinary degree of influence on the Governor and the legislature and they have used that influence to pursue favorable decisions by the PSC, at the expense of the public,” said Ben Wilcox, Research Director for Integrity Florida. “This report shows that the Public Service Commission has been “captured” by the very industries it is supposed to regulate.”

The PSC has the dual responsibility of balancing the needs of monopoly utilities and their investors with the needs of consumers. The commission must set rates that are fair, just and reasonable for consumers, but utility investors must also be allowed to earn a reasonable return on their investment. When evaluating recent rate decisions researchers noticed some troubling trends.

“Many contested rate hike requests by utilities are resolved through settlements. However, utilities seem to be gaming the settlement process,” said Alan Stonecipher, Integrity Florida researcher.  “The companies enter negotiations in rate cases much like a used car dealer who marks up the initial asking price knowing that they will eventually agree to a lower amount.”

Read the full report here.

Other Research Reports, Latest Updates

Integrity Florida Publishes New Report on the Impact of Judicial Vacancies on Florida’s Federal Courts

No Comments 11 August 2016

Integrity Florida published a new report that examines Florida’s Federal Judicial Court vacancies and cautions that prolonged inaction by the U.S. Senate could impact the timely administration of justice and result in a crisis in the courts. The report is titled The Impact of Judicial Vacancies on Florida’s Federal Courts.

Florida has 37 authorized federal judges over three districts. For various reasons, there are currently five vacancies, constituting 11 percent of the authorized judges – higher than the national average for court vacancies. Nominations have been made by the President to fill all of the vacancies, but none have been confirmed by the Senate.

“Florida’s federal district courts play a critical role in the administration of both criminal and civil justice,” said Ben Wilcox, Research Director for Integrity Florida. “Unfortunately, prolonged inaction when it comes to filling those vacancies could potentially create obstacles for those seeking access to the courts.” Read the report here.

Ethics Reform, Latest Updates

Florida’s Path to Ethics Reform

No Comments 05 January 2016

ethics cover (2)

Integrity Florida is releasing a new corruption risk report on Florida’s ethics laws titled Florida’s Path to Ethics Reform. The report finds Florida is making progress in the fight against public corruption, but much more should be done. Read the report here.

Key Findings

  • Florida is no longer leading the nation in federal public corruption convictions as was the case from 2000 through 2010. From the latest available Department of Justice data, Florida had 622 public corruption convictions from 2003 through 2013. That means Florida is third behind Texas with 870 corruption convictions and California with 678. Federal public corruption convictions in Florida have declined in recent years.
  • In the 2015 update to the State Integrity Investigation, Florida’s grade for “Ethics Enforcement Agencies” went from an “F” in 2012 to a “D-minus” in 2015. The report cites the ethics reform/anti-corruption measures adopted by the Florida legislature in 2013 and 2014 as the reason for the improvement, but says those reforms “were not enough to make a real impact.”
  • The report examines the anti-corruption recommendations made by the Nineteenth Statewide Grand Jury in 2010 and finds only a few have been adopted and the majority have never even been considered by the Florida legislature.

Policy Options for the 2016 Florida legislature.

  • Senate Bill 582 by Senator Don Gaetz would put into law two anti-corruption recommendations of the Nineteenth Statewide Grand Jury. The bill would expand the definition of public servants so government vendors could be prosecuted under bribery and misuse of office statutes. It would also remove language in the statutes that requires prosecutors prove defendants acted “corruptly” or with “corrupt intent,” making it easier to prosecute public corruption.
  • Senate Bill 686/House Bill 593 by Senator Gaetz and Representative Larry Metz is an omnibus ethics reform measure that contains the provisions in Senate Bill 582 along with other good reforms including requiring elected city officials to file full financial disclosure.

Read the report Florida’s Path to Ethics Reform for more ethics reform/anti-corruption policy options.

Latest Updates

New Report on Campaign Financing

No Comments 24 August 2015

This research report is the third collaboration between the LeRoy Collins Institute and Integrity Florida on state-local ethics issues. The report provides preliminary analysis of the impact of a recently enacted state law increasing the contributions candidates for state office may accept directly and compares that to the impact of provisions in several counties and cities that reduced contributions to candidates for local office. The initial findings are that local restrictions reduce the amount of direct contributions while the state expansion increases these contributions. The report puts these findings in the broader campaign finance context in Florida and other states. It concludes with a list of some possible reforms to improve the balance and transparency of the campaign finance process in Florida. You can read the report here.

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