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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Ethics Commission urges legislators to reform



After proposing a package of reforms to tighten the state's loose ethics laws four years in a row, and having legislators drop it every year, the chairman of the Florida Commission on Ethics said today that it's time for the state to either act or lose control.

"There is an atmosphere that is a pressure-bubble building,'' said Roy Rogers, CEO of Lighthouse Point and chairman of the commssion. Across the state, there "is a need as expressed by the community to do better ethically.''

He warned that amid the ethics scandals in local communities, many local governments have  been "coming up with their own interpretation of how ethics shold be dealt with'' and absent a strong state standard that "haphazard'' approach to ethics reform could have a unintended result: repressing people with "the right stuff'' to seek public office.

Rogers urged legislators to "have a stand that is so strong and so appealing that it is not replicated instead of going on as it is now ad hoc.''

He also warned that in the midst of the state's tough budget climate, the already-strained commission staff could drop below a "critical level.''

"We really need to have a continued resource stream so that our staff can function on the level that is is functioning now,'' he said.  

Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, is handling the ethics commission's proposed legislation this year, wrapping it into recommendations from the Statewide Grand Jury condemning Florida's lack ethics laws. Rep. Lori Berman, a Democrat from Delray Beach, has sponsored a bill in the house. Neither the House speaker or Senate president have identified the issues as among their top priorities.

[Last modified: Friday, February 4, 2011 1:44pm]


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