Florida Sen. Dennis Baxley

Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Lady Lake

A resolution seeking to place a proposed amendment on the ballot asking voters to do away with the state’s 22-year-old public campaign financing law again is advancing in the House but stumbling in the Senate.

House Joint Resolution 1325 would repeal a state law that authorizes public financing of campaigns.

The House Public Integrity & Ethics Committee on Thursday endorsed the resolution 1325, sponsored by Rep. Vance Aloupis Jr., R-Miami, in an 18-0 vote. The measure has a hearing in the House State Affairs Committee before a chamber vote.

The same bill was approved by the House last year but never heard in the Senate.

Its Senate companion resolution, Senate Joint Resolution 1110, sponsored by Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Lady Lake, narrowly passed the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee in a 4-3 vote and awaits hearings before the Judiciary Committee and the Rules Committee.

Baxley has submitted the same bill the past four sessions, calling the campaign finance law “welfare for candidates.” Last year’s version also passed the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee in a 4-3 vote but was never heard from again.

Florida voters approved a 1998 constitutional measure to create a public-campaign-contribution program that matches donations of $250 or less from individuals to candidates for state office.

In the 22 years since Florida became one of 14 states to provide some form of public financing option for campaigns, almost $56 million in matching funds have been allocated by the state to candidates.

In the November 2018 elections, overall matching funds contributed by Floridians to campaigns totaled $9.85 million, more than double the $4.34 million from 2014’s midterm election, and topping the nearly $6.07 million doled out to candidates in 2010.

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ campaign received $3.23 million from the program, and his opponent, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum’s campaign, received just under $2.62 million.

The $5.85 million in public campaign contributions was less than 5 percent of the $110 million the DeSantis and Gillum campaigns combined to raise in their 2018 election.

Aloupis said campaign financing has changed dramatically in the past two decades, noting all candidates spent $29 million in Florida’s 2010 campaigns and just DeSantis and Gillum spent “$110 million for one position” in 2018.

“It would be hard to say that there is not enough money in politics,” he said. “We do not need more money in elections. Is this the best use of public dollars?”

Aloupis said the near-$10 million in public money distributed to the DeSantis and Gillum campaigns would be best spent on “the projects in the communities we serve. Every single dollar that is appropriated matters. There are needs in our communities. We need projects in our districts. Is this the best use of finite dollars?”

Despite the unanimous vote, several members expressed reservations.

Rep. Susan Valdes, D-Tampa, and Rep. Joy Goff-Marcil, D-Maitland, said voters approved dedicating public money to campaigns to help candidates that don’t have the support of wealthy donors.

“I have concerns about a regular person running for office, not just millionaires,” Goff-Marcil said. “This does not solve the problem with campaign financing.”