Amid the news of J.D. Alexander’s attempt to intimidate the student member of Florida’s Board of Governors, comes a St. Petersburg Times story which details the ongoing republican efforts to stop ethics reform in its tracks.
TALLAHASSEE — On Rick Scott’s first day as governor, he declared ethics and integrity “essential to maintaining the public trust” and ordered his office to find ways to implement suggestions from a grand jury assembled to investigate public corruption.
More than 10 months later, there appears to be no plan.
That frustrates some tea party activists who propelled Scott to victory. They believed Scott was talking about ethics reform in all those campaign ads where he blasted “Tallahassee insiders.”
“He led Florida voters to think he was going to be a strong proponent of ethics reform, and his record shows he’s very weak,” said Nick Egoroff, a tea party activist from Orlando. “I haven’t heard him say one word on it.”
A pair of Republican senators who have been unable to push ethics reform through the GOP-controlled Legislature also said they were “disappointed” in Scott.
“Sometimes we hear one thing from him and his administration and they never follow through,” said Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey.
Some grand jury recommendations mirrored a proposal that Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, has been unable to pass for four years in Tallahassee. She said Scott’s office has not contacted her about the legislation.
“I’m not surprised, but I am disappointed,” Dockery said.
Scott declined to comment on the status of his executive order.
“We’re doing the right things,” he said.
Scott spokesman Brian Burgess said that after reviewing the grand jury report — which called for tougher conflict-of-interest laws and campaign finance regulations, among other things — Scott’s office determined that all the suggestions would require legislation. He did not explain why Scott has not pushed for lawmakers to pass an ethics bill.
Florida republicans have been quite successful in overcoming the critical eye of the state’s media of which is not friendly. But can they overcome opposition by the Tea Party?
The Tea Party Network, a group that claims to represent about 70 tea parties around the state, has picked Dockery’s ethics bill (SB 552) as one of about a half-dozen issues it will push when the annual lawmaking session formally opens in January.
“One of our founding principles is to hold elected officials accountable,” said Henry Kelley, chairman of the Fort Walton Beach Tea Party and the network’s legislative coordinator.
Kelley said members of the network have attended each of the previous four weeks of legislative hearings, which are held in advance of the session.
Dockery’s proposal aims to prohibit lawmakers from voting on any bill that would provide a “special private gain or loss” to the member or a relative. Lawmakers would also be barred from participating in legislation that helps or hurts a corporate principal, employer, business associate or board on which the member sits.
“Citizens need better disclosure from our elected officials,” Kelley said.
Its voters this time and not just the media shining the light on republican’s foot-dragging on ethics. Its fair to wonder what might have been with the last session’s education agenda had such ethics rules been in place.