The Phoenix Flyer

“I swear to tell the truth:” Lawmaker files bill that would make lying in Legislature a felony

By: - January 2, 2019 10:16 am

Sen. Lauren Book. WFSU photo

It’s no secret that the Legislature is a place where lawmakers and lobbyists sometimes – shall we say –  stretch the truth to make a point. A South Florida state senator has just filed legislation which would require people who give testimony in the Legislature to take an oath that they’ll tell the truth.

“Any person who addresses a standing or select  committee, or a subcommittee thereof, shall first declare that  he or she will speak truthfully by taking an oath or affirmation in substantially the following form: ‘Do you swear or affirm  that the information you are about to share will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?’ The person’s answer must be noted in the record,” the “Truth in Government Act” reads, in part.

The penalty for lying would be a third-degree felony.

It doesn’t apply to legislators themselves, however. But a legislator (or legislative staffer) caught in a falsehood “is subject to discipline by the presiding officer of the applicable house of the Legislature for making a false statement that he or she does not believe to be true,” the draft bill says.

The legislation was filed by Sen. Lauren Book, a Democrat from Plantation who has been in the Legislature since 2016.

The 2019 Legislature formally convenes in March, but is holding committee meetings to discuss issues and proposed legislation in January and February. The “Truth in Government Act” gets its first public discussion on Monday, Jan. 7, in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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Julie Hauserman
Julie Hauserman

Julie Hauserman has been writing about Florida for more than 30 years. She is a former Capitol bureau reporter for the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times, and reported for The Stuart News and the Tallahassee Democrat. She was a national commentator for National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition Sunday and The Splendid Table . She has won many awards, including two nominations for the Pulitzer Prize. Her work is featured in several Florida anthologies, including The Wild Heart of Florida , The Book of the Everglades , and Between Two Rivers . Her new book is Drawn to The Deep, a University Press of Florida biography of Florida cave diver and National Geographic explorer Wes Skiles.