Senate panel rejects ethics bill

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A far-reaching ethics bill that, among other things would have prevented lawmakers from working for colleges and universities died in a deadlocked Senate committee on Tuesday, reports the News Service of Florida.

The measure (SB 1560) failed to clear the Senate Rules Committee, going down on a 6-6 vote. It was sponsored by the Rules Committee’s chairman, Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine.

The measure provides that a member of the Legislature can’t work for or be a contracted employee of a state university or college while in office or for two years after leaving office, though current members of the Legislature would be grandfathered in and could keep jobs at universities – until they run for re-election.

Backers said recent events have shown the need to avoid lawmakers going to bat for a particular school while in the Legislature, while being paid by the institution, or in advance of taking a college position. Thrasher said the bill arose from a grand jury report on public corruption released in 2010.

Among the episodes Thrasher’s ethics bill may have prevented was the case of former House Speaker Ray Sansom, who, shortly after becoming speaker, took a six figure job with Northwest Florida State College. Earlier, he had helped get money into the budget for the school, and was eventually forced out of the Legislature, though he was cleared of any criminal wrongdoing. No member on the committee mentioned Sansom’s case directly.

But Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, said it is too easy for universities to seek out legislators and put them on the payroll.

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Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.