Florida House Republicans this week unanimously elected Land O’Lakes Richard Corcoran to be next speaker of the House of Representatives, beginning in fall 2016. In a speech to his House colleagues on Wednesday, the Pasco County Republican laid out several proposed ethics reforms aimed at “cleaning up our own house.” Among his proposed reforms are:
- Requiring lobbyists to disclose the bills, amendments and appropriations they are trying to influence;
- Banning lawmakers for six years after they leave office from taking jobs in government, unless they are elected to an office;
- Prohibiting legislators from taking a job with any company or group that receives funding from the state; and
- Passing a constitutional amendment that bans any state elected official from lobbying the legislative or executive branch for six years after they leave office, increased from the current two-year ban.
“It’s encouraging Speaker-Designate Corcoran is prioritizing anti-corruption measures aimed at improving public trust in government,” said Ben Wilcox, research director of the nonpartisan research institute and government watchdog group Integrity Florida. “Integrity Florida supports those proposed ethics reforms that are consistent with our research policy recommendations.”
Some some observers are more skeptical.
“I commend him for wanting to step outside the boundaries of Tallahassee and tackle the problem,” Pasco County Tax Collector and former state legislator Mike Fasano told the Miami Herald’s Mary Ellen Klas. “But you can’t go up there and say we’re going to overhaul the influence of special interests and then five minutes later take a check from those same special interests. If he wants to lead, he has to start with himself and he has to start now.”
Wilcox is optimistic though that Corcoran will follow through with his ethics reform proposal. “These much-needed reforms will make government more transparent and elected officials more accountable to the people,” he said. “Requiring more disclosure from lobbyists will give the public a better opportunity to see how special interests are influencing public policy.”
Integrity Florida was created in 2012 to serve as a nonpartisan research institute and government watchdog whose mission is to promote integrity in government and expose public corruption in the Sunshine State. It was led by executive director Dan Krassner and Wilcox. Krassner left the organization in May to become the political director of Represent.US, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit that calls itself a “fiercely” nonpartisan movement aiming to get tough anti-corruption laws passed in cities and states across America, and to end the legalized corruption that has come to define modern politics.