Florida Senate unanimously approves President Gaetz priority ethics reformby Dara Kam | March 5th, 2013
Calling it the most comprehensive reform in Florida in three decades, the state Senate unanimously approved a sweeping ethics package, a priority of Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville.
Gaetz said he skipped the traditional president’s speech to take up and pass the bill.
“You have made your mothers and fathers proud of you today,” Gaetz said after the bill passed. “You have brought by your vote today honor to this Senate and to the people who you serve with. You have changed the code of public conduct in Florida forever and for the better and I thank you.”
The measure (SB 2) would give the ethics commission more teeth to the Commission on Ethics, bar legislators from voting on bills that would inure to a special private gain for them and ban lawmakers from getting special jobs at public institutions such as universities just because of their position.
The plan would also close the “revolving door” that allows lawmakers to lobby after they leave office. An amendment approved on the floor Tuesday afternoon would make that provision apply to all lawmakers instead of the original version that only applied to those elected after 2014.
“You can look any constituent in the eye with conviction and tell them that you have taken a firm stand for improved ethics in government,” Senate Ethics and Elections Committee Chairman Jack Latvala, R-St. Petersburg, said while explaining the bill on the floor.
The Senate bill also includes something not in the House’s companion measure: Closing the loophole in the lobbying gift ban.
The measure would ban lawmakers from accepting contributions from lobbyists in their political committees, or CCEs, and using the money for swank dinners or parties.
Latvala urged his colleagues to convince the House “that we want real, meaningful ethics reform in the Florida Senate and we don’t want it watered down.”