Florida’s Senate approved a new set of ethics rules today that will strengthen the body’s conflict of interest guidelines. The vote marked the first action to emerge from a vocal push for ethics reform by the state’s incoming legislative leaders.
Senate President Don Gaetz, who took control during today’s organizational meeting, proposed the rules Monday after committing to reforms during the election season.
"I hope that's the first step in many steps we are able to take in the Senate and House when it comes to ethics," Gaetz told the Miami Herald, adding that he’d also like to strengthen the enforcement powers of the Florida Commission on Ethics, which oversees ethics rules. Gaetz joined the Senate in 2006 after a long career as a health care executive.
The rules require senators to take an ethics course every other year and bars them from voting on issues in which they have a conflict of interest — though it will be up to them to decide. Previously, senators were allowed to vote whether or not they judged themselves to have a conflict, and were not required to disclose the conflict until after voting.