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Speaker-designate Will Weatherford’

Weatherford ready to disconnect legislators from their spending committees

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012 by John Kennedy

In the wake of another big spending election, incoming House Speaker Will Weatherford said Tuesday that he will make limiting the dollars flowing into political spending committees a top priority in next spring’s legislative session.

The Wesley Chapel Republican, who will take over leadership of the House at next week’s organizational session of the Legislature, said it is time to disconnect lawmakers from committees they can establish to raise and spend unlimited contributions from Florida’s biggest industries.

Weatherford, himself, raised more than $2 million for his Committee for a Conservative House, which he used to help elect favored candidates and for political expenses. One way to reduce the influence of these murky committees, he said, is to raise Florida’s $500 limit on individual contributions to political candidates.

“I think $500 is archaic,” Weatherford said of the current limit, in place about 20 years. “When you compare us to other states…Florida has one of the lowest contribution limits in the country.

“We all know people are spending a lot of money on campaigns, unfortunately, none of it is going to the actual campaign,” he said.

The campaign proposal is likely to be debated in an Ethics and Elections Committee the incoming speaker has established and was among a wide range of topics covered Tuesday as Weatherford prepares to assume leadership in the House, with Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, set to become Senate president.

Florida’s difficulty in tabulating all the ballots in last week’s election also will be part of the committee’s mission, Weatherford said. But he was reluctant to say that a 2011 law reducing the number of days and sites for early voting was a root cause of Florida’s election struggles.

Democrats and voting rights groups have argued in court that Florida’s ruling Republicans enacted the law to depress Democratic turnout.

“We’re still trying to figure out what the problems are,” Weatherford said.

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