(1)(a) There is created within the Department of Legal Affairs, Office of the Attorney General, a Florida Elections Commission, hereinafter referred to as the commission. The commission shall be a separate budget entity and the agency head for all purposes. The commission shall not be subject to control, supervision, or direction by the Department of Legal Affairs or the Attorney General in the performance of its duties, including, but not limited to, personnel, purchasing transactions involving real or personal property, and budgetary matters.
(b) The commission shall be composed of nine members. The President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the minority leader of the Senate, and the minority leader of the House of Representatives shall each provide a list of six nominees to the Governor for initial appointment to the commission. The Governor may appoint two members to the commission from each list. If the Governor refuses to appoint two members from any of the respective lists, the Governor shall so inform the nominating officer and the nominating officer shall submit a new list of six nominees within 30 days. The new list must contain at least three nominees not included on the prior nominating list. The ninth commission member, who shall serve as chair of the commission, shall be appointed by the Governor. Each member of the commission is subject to confirmation by the Senate. The chair of the commission shall serve for a maximum term of 4 years, such term to run concurrently with the term of the appointing Governor and until a future successor is appointed. Other members of the commission shall serve for 4-year terms and until their successors are appointed. An individual who is a lobbyist at the state or local government level may not serve as a member of the commission, except that this prohibition shall not apply to an individual who is a member of the commission on July 1, 2002, until the expiration of his or her current term. A member of the commission is prohibited from lobbying state or local government while he or she is a member of the commission, except that this prohibition shall not apply to an individual who is a member of the commission on July 1, 2002, until the expiration of his or her current term.
(c) As the terms of members expire, excluding the chair, successors shall be appointed to 4-year terms and shall serve until their successors are appointed. Six months prior to the expiration of a commission member’s term, the ranking officer of the political party in the respective house originally nominating the commission member shall submit a list of three nominees to the Governor. The Governor may appoint one of the listed nominees to the commission. If no nominee is selected from the list, the Governor shall so inform the nominating officer, who shall submit a list of three different nominees to the Governor within 30 days. Vacancies on the commission shall expeditiously be filled for the unexpired terms in the same manner.
(d) As the term of the chair of the commission expires or becomes vacant, a successor shall be appointed in the manner of the original appointment, and shall serve for a maximum of 4 years, such term to run concurrently with the term of the appointing Governor and until a future successor is appointed.
(e) In no event may any member of the commission serve more than two full terms. Members of the commission shall be paid travel and per diem as provided in s. 112.061 while in performance of their duties and in traveling to, from, and upon same. Of the nine members of the commission, no more than five members shall be from the same political party at any one time.
(2) No member of the commission shall be a member of any county, state, or national committee of a political party; be an officer in any partisan political club or organization; or hold, or be a candidate for, any other public office. No person shall be appointed as a member of the commission who has held an elective public office or office in a political party within the year immediately preceding his or her appointment.
(3) The commission shall convene at the call of its chair or at the request of a majority of the members of the commission. The presence of five members is required to constitute a quorum, and the affirmative vote of the majority of the members present is required for any action or recommendation by the commission. The commission may meet in any city of the state.
(4) The commission shall appoint an executive director, who shall serve under the direction, supervision, and control of the commission. The executive director, with the consent of the commission, shall employ such staff as are necessary to adequately perform the functions of the commission, within budgetary limitations. All employees, except the executive director and attorneys, are subject to part II of chapter 110. The executive director shall serve at the pleasure of the commission and be subject to part III of chapter 110, except that the commission shall have complete authority for setting the executive director’s salary. Attorneys employed by the commission shall be subject to part V of chapter 110.
(5) Hearings shall be held before the commission, except that the chair may direct that any hearing be held before one member of the commission or a panel of less than the full commission. The commission shall adopt rules to provide for the filing of a report when hearings are held by a single commissioner or a panel, which rules shall prescribe the time for filing the report and the contents of the report.
(6) There is established in the State Treasury an Elections Commission Trust Fund to be used by the Florida Elections Commission in order to carry out its duties pursuant to ss. 106.24-106.28. The trust fund may also be used by the Secretary of State, pursuant to his or her authority under s. 97.012(14), to provide rewards for information leading to criminal convictions related to voter registration fraud, voter fraud, and vote scams.
(7) The commission shall develop a budget request pursuant to chapter 216 annually. The budget is not subject to change by the Department of Legal Affairs or the Attorney General, but it shall be submitted by the Department of Legal Affairs to the Governor for transmittal to the Legislature.
(8) The commission is authorized to contract or consult with appropriate agencies of state government for such professional assistance as may be needed in the discharge of its duties.