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FL: 2014 Legislature let feet drag on ethics reform

Lawmakers didn’t tackle ethics reform for state-level elected officials, but they did pass a bill that would require local elected officials to take ethics training classes.

SB 846, sponsored by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, requires local officials to take four hours of ethics training classes a year and sign off on their financial disclosures that they have completed the training. The bill would also let the Commission on Ethics initiate investigations of public officials who fail to file financial disclosures.

One bill that looked sure to pass this legislative session, setting standards for determining if elected officers live in their districts, sailed through the Senate without dissent — but crashed in the House. The bill by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, (SB 602) would have set criteria like where an officeholder claims homestead exemption, sends children to school, receives mail or sleeps every night, to define residency.

Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, got his bill (SB 192) through one committee — seeking to let legislators accept meals and non-alcoholic drinks at events when they are invited to speak — but it never reached the Senate floor. For the second straight year, legislators shied away from relaxing the 2005 legislative “gift ban,” which forbids them from accepting so much as a cup of coffee from a lobbyist or anyone employing legislative lobbyists.

On another elections matter, lawmakers required lobbyists hired to influence the state’s five water-management districts and some other regulatory bodies to register and disclose their clients. The bill, adopted unanimously, marks the first time lobbyist registration would be required for those appearing some special-purpose boards controlling hundreds of millions of dollars.

None of the bills filed to expand early voting or set up online registration cleared a committee in 2014.

Michael Gold

St Augustine native, Michael Gold, is editor at Historic City News. He is an advocate for grassroots citizen journalism whose job is holding public figures accountable to the public. Founded on the Internet in March 2000, HCN has developed from a periodic newsletter, to an interactive platform, to a publication read by the area's most engaged citizens. Historic City News is focused on news originating from or having an impact on St Augustine and St Johns County. Contact by e-mail

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