Senate passes abridged public corruption bill

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The Florida Senate passed a shorter alternative to an omnibus anti-corruption bill to tighten ethics standards and make it easier to prosecute corruption on Wednesday, amid a flurry of bill action.

The proposal, HB 7071, passed on a 39-0 vote. The measure lowers a legal threshold for prosecution from “with corrupt intent” to “knowingly and intentionally” engaging in a corrupt act.

Senate sponsor Sen. Don Gaetz had also introduced a more expansive version that would strengthen financial reporting requirements, add restrictions on private sector employment by lawmakers, and increase transparency for lobbyists.

That bill, HB 593, passed the House on Monday, though its future in the Senate looks uncertain.

The impetus for both bills was the enactment of recommendations of a 2009 state grand jury, which said in a report Floridians pay  a de factor “corruption tax” resulting from perennial graft and quid pro quo dealmaking by public officials and government contractors.

Both bills have been heavily backed – and even lobbied upon – by the Gannett chain of newspapers, including Brevard County-based Florida Today. Some lawmakers, notably Sen. Jack Latvala, took umbrage at their activist stance in Tallahassee because they also endorse and report on candidates and officials.

Ryan Ray

Ryan Ray covers politics and public policy in North Florida and across the state. He has also worked as a legislative researcher and political campaign staffer. He can be reached at [email protected]


5 comments

  • DWIPOKAY

    March 9, 2016 at 9:03 pm

    Senator Gaetz continues to impress me with his tireless and ongoing efforts to combat Florida corruption through legislative changes and is an inspiration for all of us. Unfortunately, legislative changes are only part of the equation relative to reducing Florida’s substantial and ever increasing state corruption tax.

    Florida’s reputation as one of the most corrupt states is the result of many factors including but not limited to rampant non-compliance with Florida law and Rules of Court by members of the judiciary and elected and public officials at all levels within the Judicial and Executive Branches, respectively, and the legal profession. Unless state actors like Miami-Dade County State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle, Attorney General Pam Bondi and CFO Jeff Atwater (Risk Management Division & State Self-Insurance Program) begin treating public corruption like a foe versus a friend that needs their backside covered nothing is going to change. Accordingly, legislative changes will feel good, but make little difference in the end.

    The Nineteenth Statewide Grand Jury Report on Public Corruption published 12-29-10 elucidated many necessary changes, but it has taken almost six years just to press such matters forward in the house and the senate.

    All this, coupled with the fact that good investigative reporting appears to be a thing of the past indicates that Senator Gaetz’ efforts may be too little too late and the state’s corruption tax will continue to rise.

    Chief Justice Jorge Labarga’s Commission on Civil Access to Justice (established to remove economic barriers to justice for the disadvantaged) appears to be nothing more than fluff and an attempt to solicit funding for a badly broken judicial system replete with state actors who reached their level of incompetence years ago. The Chief Justice must be joking if he thinks he is going to provide access to the court for the disadvantaged when judges don’t comply with the law or Rules of Court and the game of justice is only for attorneys. The judicial system is nothing more than a money making machine for the legal profession and a job placement service for judges who leave the bench.

    Oversight agencies like the Florida Bar, JQC and Florida Ethics Commission are filled with members who are conflicted and lack independence.

    I have documented the transgressions of various judges, public and elected officials and oversight agencies for the past eight years, relentlessly fought the impossible battle for justice relative to several different cases in various Florida jurisdictions and found that not one Florida agency follows the law, or in many cases, their own policies. Instead, they have developed informal constitutionally unauthorized patterns-and-practices designed to keep judges, state and elected officials and attorneys employed; without consequence for the the law or well-being of Floridians.

    If there are any good investigative journalist out there, contact me, I have lots of great material. Regrettably, the material is so remarkable, no one would believe it. Tolerance for corruption in Florida is now a cultural issue which will take years to change. Change that only comes from the top down.

    Keep on forging ahead Senator Gaetz. You will be well missed when you leave after this session. I am hoping and praying that your son Matt wins the election and will be able to fill your shoes. From what I have observed from the House broadcasts, he is a good man and quite capable. Your influence has born many fruits and certainly inspired me to continue the fight.

    • Glen Gibellina

      March 30, 2016 at 5:34 pm

      This was my testimony February 23rd 2015 in Miami Florida this was the second of my testimonies in front The stories and testimonies it’s time to dismantle the Family Courts..https://youtu.be/4LInxoSJN9E

  • Jeff Redding

    March 9, 2016 at 11:54 pm

    The FDOT is so corrupt they claim the ADA gives them the authority to obstruct our Right of Way (see Profile Pic). The ADA is supposed to be used to increase pedestrians access, not contractor profits.

Comments are closed.


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