Finish the job of meaningful ethics reform.
The 2016 legislative session begins January 12th and Integrity Florida is pleased that two legislators have announced they will file an anti-corruption bill in both the Senate and the House. The bill was proposed by Gannett News Service and is consistent with Integrity Florida’s research and public policy recommendations. Senator Don Gaetz (R-Destin) and Representative Ritch Workman (R-Melbourne) have pledged to file the legislation. You can read their announcement here.
The bill would put into law two anti-corruption recommendations that were in the 2010 Nineteenth Statewide Grand Jury Report titled A Study of Public Corruption in Florida and Recommended Solutions. The bill would expand the definition of “public servants” so government vendors and contractors could be prosecuted under bribery and misuse-of-office statutes.
It also removes language in the statutes that requires prosecutors prove defendants acted “corruptly” or with “corrupt intent.” The grand jury described that language as an extra burden of proof that has limited the effectiveness of corruption laws. Instead prosecutors would only have to meet the standard burden that someone acted “intentionally or knowingly.”
The Nineteenth Statewide Grand Jury report contained additional recommendations to fight corruption in Florida, many of which have never been considered by the legislature. It’s encouraging to see this new legislation and Integrity Florida hopes more legislators will revisit the Grand Jury’s recommendations and use them as a template for future reforms.
Florida Commission on Ethics 2016 Legislative Agenda
The Florida Commission on Ethics adopted its legislative wish list at its September meeting. You can read their legislative priorities here. The recommendations include giving the Commission on Ethics limited authority to initiate an investigation without first receiving a complaint. An extraordinary majority of the Commission would have to agree to initiate the investigation. Giving the Commission the authority to initiate investigations on its own was also a recommendation of the Nineteenth Grand Jury.
The Commission’s legislative agenda also includes increasing the maximum fine for an ethics violation from $10,000 to $20,000 and adding liens on personal property to the Commission’s toolkit to collect unpaid financial disclosure fines. The Commission also wants all elected officials to file the more informative form 6 financial disclosure form rather than the less informative form 1. Currently only constitutional officers are required to file form 6. Integrity Florida is hopeful the legislative priorities of the Commission on Ethics will be the subject of legislation in the 2016 legislative session.
Integrity Florida will be tracking all bills that propose anti-corruption solutions and seek to raise the ethics bar in Florida. This will be the fourth year in a row that ethics in Florida government has seen legislative attention and 2016 has the potential for truly significant improvements.
Related Integrity Florida research publications:
Related Media Coverage:
AP: Scott signs ethics, campaign finance bills (read more)
Related government websites:
JLAC – Joint Legislative Auditing Committee
Related Research from Other Organizations: