Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Senate President Don Gaetz cancels on governor to avoid rule violation

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott invited Senate President Don Gaetz to dinner Thursday and the senator gladly accepted, before realizing that going might violate Senate rules and the Florida Constitution.

Scott invited legislators to a holiday reception at the Mansion and Gaetz said he and his wife were invited to stay for dinner.

"They've asked Vicki and I to stay afterwards," Gaetz said. "I guess he wants to talk to me."

Scott often favors substantive discussions over small talk, and the success of his agenda in the second half of his term will depend in large part on Gaetz's support.

Gaetz said the two men have not spoken since he became Senate president Nov. 20.

Reminded that Senate rules and the Constitution prohibit the Senate president and governor from discussing official business in private, Gaetz said: "I'll try not to."

But soon after, Gaetz canceled.

It may have looked like an innocent get-together at the most festive time of the year, and a spokeswoman for Scott said the event was "purely social."

But under rules re-enacted by the Senate two weeks ago, the Senate president cannot meet privately with the governor without first issuing a four-hour notice to the public and news media.

No notice was given before Thursday's event.

The Senate counsel, George Levesque, interprets the rule to cover social occasions between the two leaders, according to Gaetz's spokeswoman.

"It was definitely our fault," spokeswoman Katherine Betta said. "Next time, we will notice it."

The Constitution contains a provision, approved by Florida voters, that says discussions of official business between the governor and Senate president or House speaker must be "reasonably open to the public."

House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, was also invited to the reception, but said he could not attend.

Gaetz, a Niceville Republican, has set a tone different from his predecessors by calling for higher ethical standards for elected officials in Florida — especially legislators.

In his Nov. 20 acceptance speech as Senate president, he told the Senate: "You and I will be judged ... by what we do to reform the way we run elections and raise the standards of ethical conduct from the courthouse to the state house."

Barbara Petersen of the First Amendment Foundation, a group that monitors government compliance with open meetings and public records laws, praised Gaetz for cancelling on the governor.

"I think this is the appropriate response and hopefully it sets the tone for the upcoming legislative session," Petersen said. "Even though this meeting may have been less formal than others, clearly Sen. Gaetz takes the responsibilities of his office very seriously."

Contact Steve Bousquet at bousquet@tampabay.com or (850) 224-7263.

Senate President Don Gaetz cancels on governor to avoid rule violation 12/07/12 [Last modified: Friday, December 7, 2012 3:40pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Companies, governments assess damage from latest malware attack

    World

    PARIS — Companies and governments around the world on Wednesday counted the cost of a software epidemic that has disrupted ports, hospitals and banks. Ukraine, which was hardest hit and where the attack likely originated, said it had secured critical state assets — though everyday life remained affected, …

  2. Tampa man crashes into parked cars, gate at the Islamic Society of Tampa Mosque

    Crime

    A Tampa man intentionally drove his pick-up truck into two parked vehicles before smashing through the locked gate of the Islamic Society of Tampa Mosque, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

    Shaun H. Urwiler, 42, was arrested July 16 for intentionally driving his pick-up truck into two parked vehicles before smashing through the locked gate of the Islamic Society of Tampa Mosque, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
  3. USF hoops to play at Indiana in November

    Blogs

    The USF men's basketball team is set to get an early test from a Big Ten powerhouse in non-conference play next season.

  4. Last steel beam marks construction milestone for Tom and Mary James' museum

    Growth

    ST. PETERSBURG — Tom and Mary James on Wednesday signed their names to the last steel beam framing the 105-ton stone mesa that will be built at the entrance of the museum that bears their name: the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art.

    The topping-out ceremony of the James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art was held Wednesday morning in downtown St. Petersburg. Mary James (from left), husband Tom and Mayor Rick Kriseman signed the final beam before it was put into place. When finished, the $55 million museum at 100 Central Ave. will hold up to 500 pieces of the couple's 3,000-piece art collection. [Courtesy of James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art]
  5. Florida's school grades improve as educators get the hang of a new system

    Testing

    Following a trend, Florida's school grades showed strong gains in the third year after the state changed its grading formula and the standardized tests that students take every year.

    After finding out earlier Wednesday that her school went from a low C to an A,  Bear Creek Elementary principal Willette Houston celebrates with her students in the YMCA After School program at the school in St. Petersburg. Houston is giving a high five to rising fifth grader Jonaven Viera. Rising 4th grader Jonathan Cafaro is in foreground with his back to camera. [CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times]