Legislation labeled as “the most sweeping ethics reform package in more than 30 years” cleared two committees on Wednesday. Senate Committees on Community Affairs, chaired by Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, and on Government Oversight and Accountability, chaired by Sen. Jeremy Ring, D-Margate, passed Senate Bills 2 and 4, respectively. The legislation is said to be a major priority of Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville.
Gaetz issued the following statement:
“I am proud that our Senate team continues to move these important reforms forward, creating a more ethical, and therefore stronger, Florida,” President Gaetz said. “The ethical standards which have guided our elected officials have been too lax and ambiguous for far too long. Now our Senators are two steps closer to providing our constituents with solutions, not excuses, to the abuses of power that continue to plague Florida’s government. I commend Chair Latvala for continuing to work this important legislation through the process and look forward to seeing this good bill come to the Senate floor early in session.”
SB 2 and 4 were drafted by the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee and co-introduced by Chairman Senator Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater).
“This comprehensive legislation will help preserve and restore public confidence by providing our constituents with the transparency and accountability they deserve from their public officials,” said Senator Latvala. “I am happy to see the continued bipartisan support that both SB 2 and SB 4 are receiving in the Florida Senate.”
SB 2 addresses a number of reported ethical concerns by making financial disclosures available online, giving the Commission on Ethics more authority to collect unpaid fines, requiring state officers to abstain from voting on certain matters that benefit them directly, placing greater restrictions on public employment while in office, restrictions on lobbying after leaving office, and prohibiting officials from accepting gifts from political committees and Committees of Continuous Existence. The bill also allows public officials to place their assets in a blind trust to help them avoid potential conflicts of interest and allows the use of certified public accountants when preparing financial disclosures.
SB 4 revises laws relating to public records to accommodate new provisions in SPB 7006 that allow the Commission to initiate investigations based on referrals from the Governor, the Department of Law Enforcement, the state and U.S. Attorneys.
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