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Politics

Ethics Refresher Before Florida Senators

November 18, 2012 - 6:00pm

Florida senators will have to undergo a refresher course in ethics before the 2013 legislative session, under new rules proposed Monday from incoming Senate President Don Gaetz.

Senators will also have to sit out votes that could financially benefit themselves from the decision and announce why they are abstaining from the vote under the rule changes that go before the full Senate as part of its organizational meeting on Tuesday.

Integrity Florida, which has been calling for a number of ethics-related changes to the Legislature, applauded the raised standards on conflict of interest.

"These reforms put more emphasis on public service rather than past rules that allowed private gain to go unchecked, Integrity Executive Director Dan Krassner stated in a release.

Disclosing conflicts in advance will serve the public much better."

Under the proposed changes, senators:

-- Would have to take a course in ethics prior to legislative sessions on odd numbered years.

-- Must abstain from votes involving a personal conflict of interest.

-- Must disclose why they or family members or business interests have a conflict of interest.

In October, Gaetz called for a number of ethics changes, including matching the House version of disclosure rules that require legislators to declare any potential conflict prior to a vote.

The proposals were drafted by Gaetz and Sens. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, Chris Smith, D-Oakland Park, Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, and Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton.

Reach Jim Turner at jturner@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 215-9889.

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