Tallahassee–The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee, chaired by Senator Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater), on Tuesday unanimously passed a landmark ethics reform package. The legislation is a major priority of Senate President Don Gaetz (R-Niceville), who issued the following statement in gratitude to Chair Latvala and the committee:
“The Senate began the approval process for the most sweeping ethics reform in more than 30 years this afternoon. This bill stands as a bright line warning to those who would use public office for private gain and as a tribute to those who treat public office as an obligation for service and sacrifice.
“Chairman Latvala has masterfully built a bi-partisan coalition for reform, and I am deeply grateful to him.”
The two bills, SPB 7006 and SPB 7008, take a comprehensive approach to increasing the public trust in our states leaders by expanding the scope and enforceability of ethics rules. “This proposal is the most significant ethics reform package in 36 years since the Sunshine Amendment.” said Senator Latvala. “Together these bills will increase transparency while guiding elected and public officials to avoid situations that even create an appearance of conflict.”
SPB 7006 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.
SPB 7008 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.
“The reforms are an important step to ensuring the voters confidence in their state’s leaders,” said Senator Latvala.
Additional information can be found via the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee website. http://www.flsenate.gov/Committees/Show/EE/.