Former Senate President Ken Pruitt is a loser in new ethics standards for local government officials unanimously approved Wednesday by the Florida Senate.
The legislation (CS/SB 846) sets a new code of conduct for members of quasi-government boards like Enterprise Florida, requires city council members to take four hours of ethics training, and would force lobbyists working for such special districts as the South Florida Water Management District and Port of Palm Beach to register with the state and submit quarterly financial disclosure reports.
The measure still has to clear the House before going to Gov. Rick Scott. But sponsor, Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, said the legislation was a logical extension of the tougher ethics standards lawmakers adopted for themselves last year.
“There’s no reason for the people who serve on these boards not to have the same code of conduct,” Latvala said.
But an amendment added Wednesday and sponsored by Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, also toughened the bill by prohibiting local officials from lobbying the Legislature for other special interests. The measure would affect state attorneys, county commissioners, constitutional officers, school superintendents, school board members and others.
Although not specifically named, a target of the prohibition is Pruitt, who as St. Lucie County Property Appraiser also has built a large and lucrative lobbying practice.
Pruitt, who was not immediately available following the Senate vote, works the halls in Tallahassee while on temporary leave from his St. Lucie post but represents 15 clients, including the city of Boca Raton, sugar giant Florida Crystals and the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.
Pruitt was Senate President from 2006-08 and represented parts of Palm Beach County in the Legislature for most of two decades. His lobbying practice has rankled some senators. The bill would prohibit these officers from lobbying after their next election.
Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, unsuccessfully sought to have Sobel’s amendment softened by shielding any local officers currently lobbying — making it only apply to those who seek double-duty in the future. She said only three officials — presumably Pruitt among them — would be protected by the measure.
But it was a no sale with fellow senators.
The legislation was approved 39-0 by the Senate, about two hours before the chamber ended its day early and paused to honor its past members on Senate Reunion Day.