Broward News

Rick Scott Signs Ethics Reform Bill into Law

Florida is apparently not as corrupt as it once was, and now it just might be getting even less so after Gov. Rick Scott signed the Government Ethics bill on Friday.

The bill -- SB 846 -- is designed to make incremental changes and improvements to Florida's ethics laws, including annual ethics training for elected city officials.

Overall, it's a good start to tackling what has been a problem for the state for some time and a way to get more transparency from elected officials throughout the state.

See also: Florida Is the Tenth Most Corrupt State

In 2012, watchdog group Integrity Florida put together a study that found that a whopping 1,762 of Florida's public officials had been convicted of public corruption since 1976.

The group also found that the state had 781 public corruption convictions between 2000 and 2010 -- making Florida number one overall in the U.S. during that time.

To fight the ethics problem, House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz proposed a joint House and Senate five-point agenda for the state that included government transparency. Among them was Gaetz's Work Plan Florida, which states that the Legislature would work to improve Florida's ethics laws.

Back in April, Integrity Florida joined forces in an ethics-busting coalition with the First Amendment Foundation, Common Cause Florida, and Citizens Awareness Foundation to make sure Gaetz and the Legislature kept their promise of pushing through some kind of ethics reform bill.

"The coalition coming together to rally behind these open government bills," Dan Krassner, cofounder and executive director of Integrity Florida, told New Times. "It's our hope that lawmakers will deliver on their transparency, and we're optimistic that Speaker Weatherford will deliver with his commitment."

In May, SB 846 was passed the Florida Senate by a vote of 38-0. The Florida House of Representatives also approved the measure unanimously, 118-0.

On Friday, Scott made it official.

Among the improvements, the Florida Commission in Ethics can independently automatically start investigating an official if that official fails to disclose a financial report. The law will also require lobbyist disclosure at Florida's water management districts.

Krassner and Integrity Florida released a statement applauding the work of the Legislature and Gov. Scott.

"It's encouraging that for the second year in a row, the governor and legislature have advanced anti-corruption measures aimed at improving public trust in government," says Krassner. "While more work will be needed in the future to take on corruption, state lawmakers are moving in the right direction."

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Chris Joseph
Contact: Chris Joseph