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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Senate Rules Committee kills ethics bill targeting corrupt pols



Senator Mike Fasano's effort to stiffen penalties against corrupt lawmakers and public officials was killed on a 3-8 vote by the Senate Rules Committee, with most of the nay votes coming from fellow Republicans.

"Perception is everything. If you commit a crime, you should pay a penalty -- especially if you're a public servant," Fasano said.

But lawmakers like Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, and Gary Siplin, D-Orlando, said they didn't like the idea of making more crimes into felonies. Siplin noted the case of former House Speaker Ray Sansom, whom he said was unfairly railroaded in a theft case by state attorney Willie Meggs, who dropped the case against the Republican this week. Siplin, who was convicted of an ethics crime but won on appeal, also took issue with the state's lobbyist gift-ban, saying it was bad for the state's economy.

The consensus of the committee: The laws are fine as they are and, even if a lawmaker isn't convicted of a felony, any charge against him can ruin his life.

Voting yes: Anitere Flores, Gwen Margolis, Dennis Jones.

Voting no: Siplin, Negron, John Thrasher, JD Alexander, Andy Gardiner, Chris Smith, Steve Wise, Garrett Richter

[Last modified: Tuesday, March 29, 2011 8:10pm]


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