Ethics commissioner urges lawmakers to act on reformby Dara Kam | April 12th, 2013
Florida Commission on Ethics member Matt Carlucci is asking the Legislature to move forward on legislation that would strengthen the panel’s ability to collect fines and probe possible wrongdoing by elected officials.
The ethics proposal is a priority of Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville. But it’s caught up in horsetrading over a campaign finance measure that’s the priority of House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel. And Gov. Rick Scott’s opposition to the campaign finance changes may doom both measures.
Carlucci penned an editorial today urging lawmakers to act on the ethics proposal.
“As a member of the Florida Commission on Ethics, I am grateful and encouraged that we are on the cusp of dramatic and necessary ethics reform. The Senate, under the leadership of Senate President Gaetz and Senator Latvala, created a strong base on which the House, with the leadership of Speaker Weatherford and subcommittee Chair Boyd, built further improvements. The result, House Bill 7131, is a good work product that with a few changes, could be a great work product.
News reports suggest that the House, Senate, and Governor have disagreements over changes to the elections laws, and that those disagreements are putting HB 7131 in jeopardy. On behalf of the Commission, I urge all the parties not to let differences in philosophy in one arena stand in the way of progress on things we all can agree on. I would also ask that the Legislature make the following changes that would make HB 7131 a true and lasting achievement:
• Restore the language that would allow the Commission to record its final order as a lien in cases where there are unpaid fines for failing to file financial disclosure;
• Delete the language that allows officials the opportunity to re-do their financial disclosure after a complaint has been filed, or at least make allowing such a second chance discretionary with the Commission;
• Give the Commission the ability to investigate complaints on its own initiative, subject to a vote of seven of its nine members.
These three changes will move HB 7131 from good to outstanding. A great deal of hard work by the House and Senate has been poured into ethics reform this year. I encourage the parties to make these three changes, and then make it the law.