Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida reporting…
Florida senators pull in about $30,000 a year from the state, but most don’t appear to be living paycheck to paycheck.
More than one-third of the 40 senators have net worths topping $1 million — with 11 of the members’ financial-disclosure reports still under wraps.
Of those whose updated reports were posted online as of Thursday by the Florida Commission on Ethics — forms were due July 1 — the average net worth is just under $4.4 million, an overall average increase of $352,000 from a year ago.
The 2013 Senate class is topped by President Don Gaetz, a co-founder of VITAS Healthcare Corp. and former Okaloosa County schools superintendent, who is worth $26.2 million.
Others who have done well in their professional careers include: Sen. Wilton Simpson, who is worth $15.6 million; Sen. Jeremy Ring, $14.1 million; and Sen. Jeff Brandes, $12.2 million.
Simpson is involved in the family-owned Simpson Environmental Services and Simpson Farms. Ring has worked for a private equity firm.
Brandes, who made his money in real estate, is also a shareholder in Bay Cities Bank in Tampa and Green Bench Brewery in St. Petersburg.
Republican Sens. Rob Bradley, Charles Dean, Greg Evers, Jack Latvala, Tom Lee, Garrett Richter, David Simmons and John Thrasher, along with Democratic Sens. Gwen Margolis, Bill Montford and Eleanor Sobel make up the rest of the millionaires club.
Five senators have seen their net worths grow by more than $1 million over the past year: Brandes, $1.84 million; Gaetz, $1.3 million; Simpson, $3.3 million; Simmons, $1.5 million; and Dean, $1.9 million.
Nine recorded their net worths dropping in the past year, with Ring showing the biggest decline, $971,297. Thrasher, Lee and Richter each also posted a net worth that decreased more than a couple hundred thousand year to year.
Sen. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, an attorney with more than $337,000 in liabilities mostly involving home loans, is the only senator to record himself as fiscally underwater. Soto listed his net worth at negative $32,351.
Soto listed his net worth at a negative $95,142 a year earlier, the only Senator in the minus category at the time.
Dan Krassner, executive director of the public-advocacy group Integrity Florida, praised efforts by Legislators this past session to make the disclosure information more easily available to the public.
But he said more details should be required regarding income from spouses, possibly having tax returns included among the filings — as some lawmakers have already submitted. And, he said, elected officials should further outline income that is linked to state money.
“Lawmakers that are on the payrolls of state government vendors should be questioned by their constituents to ensure the public interest is truly their focus,” Krassner said.
This is the first year that the records are being posted online by the Commission on Ethics.
More than 38,000 state employees and elected officials were required to submit their disclosure forms by July 1. However, fines don’t begin for late filing until Sept. 1.
As of Thursday, commission workers were still redacting information from five senators’ disclosure forms before the forms could be posted.
The commission also reported it had yet to receive paperwork from: Sens. Dwight Bullard, Jeff Clemens, Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, and Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland.