Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: On ethics, get the details right

The devil is always in the details. Two weeks after the Florida Senate earned accolades for its unanimous vote on ethics reform, the bill's fine print is getting the scrutiny it deserves thanks to a former ethics commission executive director. Now it's up to the Florida House to improve the ethics reform package by tightening up several Senate provisions that could make it harder instead of easier for the public to keep tabs on those conducting the business of government. Meaningful ethics reform requires getting all the details right, not just some of them.

The House Ethics and Elections Committee starts deliberations today on the House legislation — just a day after Philip Claypool, the former executive director of the state ethics commission, critiqued the Senate legislation at the request of Integrity Florida. Among the areas ripe for improvement in the House:

Financial disclosure requirements

Lawmakers want to make it easier for officials to correct the paperwork they must file annually without consequence. But the danger is in undermining the importance of financial disclosure for the convenience of politicians, particularly when this provision could mean a corrected form isn't submitted until after an election. The citizens' right to know the financial interests of those seeking or holding office is not a nuisance requirement, and the ethics commission already distinguishes between honest mistakes and more nefarious kinds.

ConflictS of Interest

Legislators can now vote on any matter, but they have to disclose afterward if they or a close associate, including a family member, would get a special private gain or loss. Under the Senate and House bills, lawmakers could not vote on issues where they had a special interest — but could vote if their close associate did. In those cases, the legislator would still disclose a conflict after voting. And the Senate bill contains suspect language that appears to narrow the definition of special gain or loss. The goal should be to improve public disclosure, not give lawmakers more cover when they vote for their self-interest, big and small.

Ethics complaints

Both chambers would make it harder for citizens to file complaints in the run-up to an election. And the Senate would impose new standards when a complaint must be dismissed by the commission. This would make matters worse, and Florida doesn't have a problem with over-prosecution on ethics violations.

Blind Trusts

For the first time, both chambers appear poised to embrace the ethics commission's idea to allow politicians to avoid conflict of interest laws by establishing blind trusts for their assets. But the House version comes much closer to getting it right by requiring that officials document what assets are placed in a trust initially and requiring the trust agreement be filed with the ethics commission. The Senate's bill does neither of those necessary things and risks leaving citizens more in the dark about a politicians' interests than they are now.

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Editorial: Look hard into Tampa Bay and Pinellas CareerSource CEO, and get to the bottom of the numbers and the money

Editorial: Look hard into Tampa Bay and Pinellas CareerSource CEO, and get to the bottom of the numbers and the money

Something is seriously amiss at Tampa Bay’s two CareerSource agencies, which receive millions in federal and state money to match unemployed workers with local employers. First, the agencies appear to be taking credit — and money — for job placements...
Updated: 11 hours ago

A Chicago Tribune editorial: Shut down this shutdown habit

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Updated: 11 hours ago
Editorial: Beware of social media targeting kids

Editorial: Beware of social media targeting kids

Ignoring all available evidence that screen time and social media exposure can be harmful to kids, Facebook recently unveiled a new messaging app targeting children under 13. It’s yet another battlefront for parents who have to constantly combat the ...
Published: 01/21/18
Editorial: Too soon for Tampa Bay to settle for buses over light rail

Editorial: Too soon for Tampa Bay to settle for buses over light rail

The good news on the transportation front is that Tampa Bay’s government and business leaders are working together like never before to connect the region’s largest cities, attractions and employment centers with a more robust mass transit system. Th...
Published: 01/20/18
Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

The smiles, applause and at least one hug belied the grim impetus for a gathering last week at a neighborhood center in Tampa — the Seminole Heights killings.The Tampa Police Department held a ceremony to thank those who helped in the investigation t...
Published: 01/19/18
Updated: 01/21/18
Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

The death last fall of a 20-year-old Florida State University fraternity pledge revealed pervasive dangerous behavior within the school’s Greek system. Andrew Coffey, a Pi Kappa Phi pledge, died from alcohol poisoning after an off-campus party, and a...
Published: 01/19/18

Editorial: Confronting racial distrust in St. Petersburg, one conversation at a time

The St. Petersburg Police Department’s heavy presence in Midtown on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the community animosity it stirred have raised a familiar, troubling question: Can St. Petersburg’s racial divisions ever be reconciled?That big ideal ...
Published: 01/19/18
William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

A surge of Democrats seeking local legislative offices and hoping for a "blue wave" in the 2018 election continued last week, led by Bob Buesing filing to run again versus state Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa.In addition:• Heather Kenyon Stahl of Tampa has...
Published: 01/19/18

Editorial: State’s warning shot should get attention of Hillsborough schools

The state Board of Education hopefully sent the message this week with its warning shot about the slow pace of the turnaround at Hillsborough County’s low-performing schools.The board criticized the school system for failing to replace administrators...
Published: 01/18/18
Updated: 01/19/18
Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

The Florida Legislature’s abrupt move to strip the University of South Florida St. Petersburg of its hard-earned separate accreditation and transform it back into a satellite of the major research university lacks detail and an appreciation for histo...
Published: 01/18/18