- An empty shell bill was filed in the Florida Senate late last week that suggests it will be used as a vehicle to make changes to the state’s election laws.
- Under current law, some legal scholars believe Ron DeSantis is barred from running for president unless he resigns as governor, but other scholars dispute that interpretation.
- Florida media outlets speculated that the bill, SB 7050, would allow Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to run for president without resigning.
- Senate President Kathleen Passidomo disputed the claim, saying she didn’t think “resign to run” would be included and said she’s researching whether it’s needed.
- As filed, the bill will allow legislators to add language later on. It has been scheduled for the Senate Committee on Ethics and Elections agenda for April 4.
(The Center Square) – Minutes after a New York grand jury indicted former President Donald Trump, a bill was filed in the Florida Senate to change election law. That led some news outlets to report it was filed to allow Gov. Ron DeSantis to run for president without having to resign.
WESH NBC 2 News suggested the bill would allow Republican leadership “to rewrite the law as they did for former governors [Rick] Scott and [Charlie] Crist to allow them to run for federal office while maintaining the flexibility to be governor.”
Other news outlets reported SB 7050 would repeal the state’s “resign to run” law.
But at a news conference Thursday night, Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, said the bill didn’t address the “resign to run” law, which requires a current officeholder to resign their seat if they run for a federal elected position.
The Senate Committee on Ethics and Elections filed SB 7050 at 6:08 pm Thursday night, minutes after the indictment of the former president was announced. The bill has no author and no title. Referred to as a “shell bill,” it remains ambiguous and will allow legislators to add language later on. It states it’s a bill to be entitled and a preliminary draft and relates “to elections; providing legislative intent; providing an effective date.”
“Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida: Section 1. The Legislature intends to revise laws relating to elections. Section 2. This act shall take effect July 1, 2023,” it states.
At a news conference Thursday night, when asked, “What’s in the bill?” Passidomo told reporters, “We have a myriad of things that we’ve been looking into. It’s going to be pretty robust. I think it’s well drafted and Sen. [Danny] Burgess has been working really hard on it. It will be a good bill.”
Burgess, a Republican, represents District 20, which covers parts of Hillsborough, Pasco, and Polk counties.
When asked, “Will the ‘resign to run’ component be in the bill?,” she said, “No, I don’t think so. We’re still researching whether or not we really need it. We just haven’t had time to do it. I can only do one thing at a time. We’ll do that next. I kind of do my own research.”
Current state law, known as the “resign to run law,” requires a sitting elected official in Florida who qualifies for a federal office to resign from his or her position in order to run. Florida Statute Chapter 99 (4)(a) states, “Any officer who qualifies for federal public office must resign from the office he or she presently holds if the terms, or any part thereof, run concurrently with each other. (b) The resignation is irrevocable.”
The law hasn’t always been on the books and was most recently reinstated in 2018.
When it was on the books, in 2007 for example, the Republican-controlled legislature changed the law to allow then-governor Crist to run for another office. At the time, he was being considered as Republican Sen. John McCain’s possible presidential running mate.
McCain would go on to pick former Republican Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin instead, and they’d lose to then Democratic Sens. Barack Obama and Joe Biden in 2008. Crist later switched parties to become a Democrat and ran against DeSantis last year for governor and lost.
Last December, House Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, told reporters he thought it was a “great idea” to review the law. Passidomo also said changing it would be a “good idea,” WFSU Public Media reported.
“If an individual who is a Florida governor is running for president, I think he should be allowed to do it,” she said.
SB 7050 has been scheduled on the Senate Committee on Ethics and Elections agenda for April 4.