Make us your home page

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 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

  1. Jones: Bucs need success to get national respect


    Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones offers up his Two Cents on the world of sports.

    No respect

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter walks the field during the second day of mandatory minicamp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times
  2. Hopes fade after landslide destroys Chinese village (w/video)


    Crews searching through the night in the rubble left by a landslide that buried a mountain village under tons of soil and rocks in southwestern China found 15 bodies, but more than 110 more people remained missing.

    Vehicles and people line a road leading to the site of a landslide in Xinmo village in Mao County on Saturday in southwestern China’s Sichuan Province. More than 100 people remained missing after the village was buried under tons of rocks and soil.
  3. Rookie Jake Faria dissatisfied with performance in Rays' loss to Orioles

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The rookie pitcher walked to his locker Saturday after tossing the fourth quality start in as many tries to begin his career. He held the potent Orioles bats to three runs and for six innings gave his team a chance to win.

    Orioles third baseman Manny Machado tags out the Rays’ Mallex Smith at third after a rundown in the first inning.
  4. Thousands converge in two St. Pete locations celebrating LGBT rights

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — Tom Rockhill didn't know what to expect Saturday, but by noon people were knocking on the door of his bar Right Around the Corner in Grand Central.

    (From left to right) Emma Chalut 18, gets a rainbow sticker on her cheek from her sister Ellie, 15 both of Jacksonville before the annual St. Pete Pride parade in downtown St. Petersburg on Saturday. This year the route was changed from the Grand Central and Kenwood area to Bayshore Drive.
[EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times]
  5. Retired Florida Supreme Court Justice Parker Lee McDonald dies

    TALLAHASSEE — A former Florida Supreme Court justice, who wrote a decision that prevented lawyers from excluding jurors because of their race, has died.

    Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Parker Lee McDonald died Saturday, the court said in a statement. He was 93.