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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

A rocky beginning for public corruption measure



A bill to crack down on public corruption cleared a Senate committee Monday, but the volleys of skeptical questions from senators made it clear the bill has a shaky future. The measure (SB 532) by Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, would enact a recommendation of the recent statewide grand jury report by increasing penalties for crimes committed by public officials and employees "under color of law," meaning acting in their official capacity.

The Senate Rules Subcommittee on Ethics and Elections approved the bill, 12-1. Democratic Sen. Chris Smith of Fort Lauderdale cast the sole no vote, saying "the tools in the toolbox" are adequate to combat corruption. But other senators, notably John Thrasher and Steve Oelrich, raised concerns about whether the bill's reach would be too broad, and Thrasher questioned whether it should apply to teachers. He then noted that the measure has three more stops before reaching the Senate floor.

"I'm concerned about the breadth of some of these things," Thrasher said.

Fasano, sounding exasperated, told the panel: "We have a responsibility to send a message to the people back home. They are tired of picking up the newspaper every morning and reading about another public official doing wrong." 

As he left the committee, Fasano turned to a reporter and said, "Doesn't look promising, does it?"

[Last modified: Monday, March 7, 2011 2:18pm]


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