Lobbyists who lie during testimony could face charges under bill

Article Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel

By John Kennedy

Published April 27, 2007


TALLAHASSEE Lobbyists could be criminally charged if they lie during testimony before a legislative committee under a hotly debated bill approved Thursday by the Florida Senate.

The Truth in Government Act was sponsored by Sen. Alex Villalobos, R-Miami, who wants to require anyone addressing a legislative committee to be sworn in.

The measure passed 36-3, with three Democrats, Sens. Mandy Dawson of Fort Lauderdale, Gary Siplin of Orlando and Al Lawson of Tallahassee opposed.

The legislation still has to clear the House.

"How can anybody be thinking about voting against truth in government?" asked Sen. Nancy Argenziano, R-Dunnellon, when some questioned whether the measure went too far. "The only thing you have to worry about is if you intentionally lie. And if you intentionally lie, you should be prosecuted."

Opponents said they were worried about imposing strict penalties on lobbyists who might present misleading testimony by accident.

Current Florida law allows committee chairmen to request that people testifying before committees swear they will give truthful statements. But it's rarely required.

"I believe this is the single most important bill the Legislature will do this year," said first-term Sen. Jeremy Ring, D-Parkland.