Senate rolls out ethics package; ‘most significant’ in decades

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As promised, the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee on Friday released a copy of its proposed ethics bill for the upcoming session.

Following hearings earlier this week, the panel unveiled SPB 7006, which addresses issues including making financial disclosures available online and giving the Commission on Ethics more authority to initiate investigations and collect fines. The bill would require state officers to abstain from voting on matters that benefit them directly while placing greater restrictions on public employment while in office, lobbying, and expenditures of Political Committees and Committees of Continuous Existence.

The panel also filed SPB 7008, which revises laws relating to public records to accommodate new provisions. The bills will be up for discussion at the panel’s meeting Tuesday.

Among the provisions in the proposed Senate bill, according to the Miami Herald‘s Mary Ellen Klas:

•  Cracks down on legislators who cash in on their positions of power by taking jobs in school districts, community colleges, universities and water districts.

•  Expands the two-year ban on legislators, members of the executive branch and their staff from lobbying the legislature to extend to the executive branch; the ban also includes strategy and public relations work.

•  Requires legislators to abstain from voting on issues that benefit them or family members.

•  Bans the use of political committees and Committees of Continuous Existence from being used as persona slush funds to pay for dinners, travel and gifts and limits those expenditures to campaign-related activities.

•  Allows for the garnishment of wages for any elected officials who fail to pay their fines

•  Gives people who fail to file their financial disclosure paperwork on time 60 days to complete it or pay a fine.

•  Requires mandatory four-hour ethics training for public officials.

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.