Incoming Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran on Thursday unveiled a sweeping set of rules intended to limit the influence of lobbyists over Tallahassee's increasingly dysfunctional lawmaking process.

  • Key rule change: Banning lobbyists from emailing state representatives during hearings
  • Corcoran vows to 'cleaning up our house'

Corcoran, a Land O' Lakes Republican, has made ethics reform a top priority for his two-year speakership. The proposed rules are expected to be voted on during the House's post-election organization session on Nov. 22.

In a capitol where most legislators are relatively inexperienced due to term limits, lobbyists often exert outsize roles in helping to craft and pass legislation, in some cases physically drafting the bills that lawmakers file. A key rule change Corcoran is calling for would ban lobbyists from communicating electronically with state representatives during committee hearings and floor proceedings.

"We have to begin by cleaning up our own house," Corcoran said during his 2015 speaker designation ceremony. "We have to close the revolving door between lobbyists and legislators. We have to increase that distance by those who want to influence the laws and those of us who make them."

The rules also include prohibitions against legislators flying on private planes owned by lobbyists, even if they compensate those lobbyists at the rate they would have paid for a commercial flight. Several high-profile Tallahassee lobbyists with pilot certificates have turned heads by shuttling lawmakers, particularly those from South Florida, to and from the far-flung capital city in their Pipers, Cessnas and Cirruses.

The flights amount to "a practice that creates an unacceptable level of influence," Corcoran's office wrote in its description of the rule.

The capitol's annual food fight over taxpayer dollars for local projects would be fundamentally altered, as well. A Corcoran proposal would require projects to be filed as stand-alone bills, rather than tucked into the House's budget, as the process currently works. If passed, the rule could have the effect of increasing transparency and weeding out dubious proposals.

While Corcoran spoke dismissively of President-elect Donald Trump during the Republican presidential primaries, his ethics reform focus closely mirrors Trump's pledge to "drain the swamp" of special interest-driven Washington, D.C. Lobbyists there and in Tallahassee have grown in prominence, particularly as looser campaign finance laws have permitted the flow of unbridled amounts of money to politicians and political committees.

"Money talks a lot in Tallahassee," said Trimmel Gomes, a Florida policy consultant. "That's no surprise here, but we are in a different climate coming out of this election. People are going to be demanding even more."

And those demands, it seems, are about to be met in swift fashion by a reformer who has just been handed a virtual mandate.

"We must remove temptation," Corcoran declared last year.