Amid Worry Of Over-Regulation, Putnam Unveils New Charity Reforms

Jan 15, 2014

Almost a year after Florida’s Lieutenant Governor resigned amid a racketeering scandal involving a supposed veteran’s charity, new charity rules have gone from talking points to ink on paper. The state’s Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam presented the 52-page proposal Wednesday while trying to quell conservative fears of over regulation.

Lt. Governor Jenifer Carroll’s abrupt exit from Florida’s executive branch in March was followed by an investigative report that showed some of the most dishonest charities in the country called the Sunshine State home. That prompted Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, whose office also handles charities, to meet with legislators and crack down on what he calls “bad players” in the nonprofit world. Currently there is little in the way of regulations for nonprofits – their only requirement is to register with the state. But, Putnam and St. Petersburg Republican Senator Jeff Brandes’ proposal would expand those requirements to include submission of detailed financial and employment reports, a ban on charities who’ve been cited for ethics problems in other states, and more. And charities’ financial records would all be publicly available on a state website. All those new regulations might ruffle the feathers of some of the legislature’s more conservative members but, Putnam insisted the legislation was crafted in partnership with nonprofits and wouldn’t burden small, local charities who bring in less than $25,000 a year.

“In rewriting the state’s charity laws we should work with the Blue Ribbon not for profits who do it well, who do it right, who’ve been doing it a long time and can help us avoid unintended consequences that will stand between you and doing what you are so good at,” Putnam said after unveiling the bill at a meeting of the Florida Nonprofit Alliance, a statewide coalition of charities.

The Senate version of the bill, sponsored by Senator Brandes, has yet to be scheduled a committee hearing and the House version of the bill, sponsored by Bradenton Republican Representative Jim Boyd, is still being drafted.