Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

What grand jury? Florida Legislature fails to pass 'essential' ethics reform

Reform is essential to remedy the perception that those in leadership roles fail to set a noble example of service and are instead assumed to be egotistical and corrupt.

When the Legislature fails to act after its own members flagrantly abuse their positions, the citizens lose respect, faith and interest in the government.

• • •

Those aren't my words.

They are the words of the Statewide Grand Jury, which nearly six months ago issued a report: "A Study of Public Corruption in Florida and Recommended Solutions."

Convened after a string of scandals, the grand jury put forward a series of specific proposals for the Legislature to consider in the 2011 session.

"We believe that the time for action is now," the grand jury report said, "and we urge the Florida Legislature and other governmental bodies to address anti-corruption efforts using our findings and recommendations as a starting point."

Guess what?

Not a single ethics reform law passed.

Not one.

On the contrary, lawmakers — claiming to take an important step forward in the name of "transparency" — re-established "leadership funds," cash cows of lobbyist money that will be controlled by legislative leaders, inviting even more special interest influence.

The grand jury's words landed on deaf ears in Tallahassee.

Even an embarrassing episode involving Senate President Mike Haridopolos failed to generate enthusiasm for ethics reform.

His colleagues admonished Haridopolos and he issued an apology after an ethics investigation found he omitted relevant details from annual financial disclosure forms, including a $400,000 "investment home" and the clients of his sideline consulting business.

Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, sponsored a bill, SB 2088, that addressed the Haridopolos issue and would have tightened Florida's voting conflict law involving lawmakers.

It passed one Senate committee, never to be seen again.

As influential chairman of the Rules Committee, you would think Thrasher could get a bill passed.

But no.

Thrasher says the problem was that no one in the House sponsored a similar bill.

"With the rush of all of the end-of-session stuff, I never heard back from the president (Haridopolos) about it," Thrasher said. "I regret we didn't get it done. We started out without a companion (bill) in the House, and we probably should have had a discussion with some of their folks down there about it."

But they didn't.

Also in the legislative scrap heap was SB 86 by Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, to allow the Commission on Ethics to conduct its own investigations and to block legislators from voting on issues that would benefit them personally.

Also dead was a bill by Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, that would have required the governor and Cabinet members to place their assets in blind trusts and greatly increased the fines for ethics violations.

That bill, SB 1484, was never heard in any committee.

"It's kind of sad," Fasano said. "I don't understand it all, and after 17 years, I probably never will."

Oh, well.

Maybe next year. But don't hold your breath.

Steve Bousquet can be reached at [email protected] or (850) 224-7263.

What grand jury? Florida Legislature fails to pass 'essential' ethics reform 05/20/11 [Last modified: Friday, May 20, 2011 8:50pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Swastikas, pepper spray and punches: Scenes from outside Richard Spencer's Florida speech

    News

    Tampa Bay Times photographers and reporters were in Gainesville today for white nationalist Richard Spencer's speech at the University of Florida. Here's some of what they saw outside.

    This unidentified man was punched outside of Richard Spencer's speech in Gainesville.
  2. Pentagon faces demands for details on deadly attack in Niger

    Military

    WASHINGTON — The Trump administration had no answers Thursday to key questions two weeks after an ambush in the African nation of Niger killed four U.S. soldiers, prompting demands in Congress for details, complaints of Pentagon stonewalling and a comparison to the 2012 Benghazi attack. The White House defended …

    In this image provided by the U.S. Army, a carry team of soldiers from the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), carry the transfer case during a casualty return for Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, of Lyons, Ga., at Dover Air Force Base, Del., Oct. 5, 2017. U.S. and Niger forces were leaving a meeting with tribal leaders when they were ambushed on Oct. 4 and Wright and three other soldiers were killed. There were about a dozen U.S. troops and a company of Niger forces, for a total of about 40 service members in the joint mission. [Pfc. Lane Hiser | U.S. Army via AP]
  3. Trigaux: Florida, Tampa Bay lagging in growth of their startups

    Economic Development

    The annual assessment of how entrepreneurs are doing across the country is out from the Kauffman Foundation — among the best watchers of the nation's startup scene. How do Florida and Tampa Bay fare?

    Lured by financial incentives, startup GeniusCentral relocated from Manatee County in 2015 to St. Petersburg, promising to creatye 40 new jobs. It took downtown space in an appropriately creative workpace for entrepreneurs. It did not last there, later moving back to less expensive space in Manatee. A new Kauffman Index report on entrepreneurship found that Florida is a good place to launch startups but a tougher place to grow them.
[SCOTT KEELER    |      TIMES]
  4. Rick Baker revises controversial radio ad, Rick Kriseman's campaign says former mayor is "dishonest" and "desperate"

    Blogs

    Rick Baker’s campaign has revised a controversial radio ad that had incorrectly stated Mayor Rick Kriseman hadn’t “bothered to show up” at a NAACP event earlier this month.

    Mayor Rick Kriseman says former mayor Rick Baker is dishonest and desperate for airing a radio ad that has since been revised
  5. Pleasant dreams: sleep travel site gives high marks to Tampa airport

    Airlines

    TAMPA — Traveling might be considered closer to a nightmare than a dream for many. But that might be different for those who travel through Tampa International Airport. It was ranked the No. 3 overall best airport in North America by Sleeping in Airports, a travel site that tracks the best airports to catch some …

    Tampa International Airport was ranked as the No. 3 best overall airport by travel site Sleeping in Airports. | [Times file photo]