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Thursday April 24th 2014

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Senate Unanimously Approves Ethics Reform Measures

Press Release: New rules increase transparency, amend conflict of interest disclosure requirements and timeline

Tallahassee–The Florida Senate today unanimously adopted 2012-2014 Senate Rules that strengthen the requirement to disclose conflicts of interest, add a voting abstention obligation and require that all Senators complete an ethics training course.

“By approving the ethics reforms measures included in the 2012-2014 Senate Rules, the Florida Senate has today taken the first step towards holding our chamber to a higher standard of accountability,” said Senate President Don Gaetz (R-Niceville). “I commend my fellow Senators for this demonstration of our shared commitment to improving the ethical standards that govern our conduct as elected officials.”

Ethics reform measures included in the 2012-2014 Senate Rules are as follows:
· Provide new language regarding voting abstentions and disclosures when a Senator or other specified person has a conflict of interest.
· Require a Senator to abstain from voting under certain circumstances.
· Require a Senator to disclose conflicts in certain circumstances, including those requiring abstention.
· Provide an exception to the abstention and disclosure requirement for the general appropriations bill.
· Require all Senators, in odd-numbered years before a regular session, to complete a one-hour course of ethics training that includes specified topics along with any other topic deemed necessary by the President.

Under prior rules, a Senator was only required to disclose a conflict if a vote would result in a special private gain or loss for the Senator personally. Senators have agreed to expand this requirement to include disclosure of a conflict if the special private gain or loss applies to an immediate family member or business associate. Most importantly, the Senator must now abstain from voting if the conflict applies to the Senator personally.

New Rules also amend the disclosure timeline, creating the expectation that a Senator file a conflict of interest disclosure prior to the vote if at all possible. Finally, the Rules increase transparency by requiring the Secretary of the Senate to make all memoranda filed pursuant to these Rules available online.

Additional language can be found below and via www.flsenate.gov

1.39—Disclosure of conflict of interest and prohibition on voting thereon
(1) Abstention on matters of special private gain or loss.—A Senator may not vote on any matter that the Senator knows would inure to the special private gain or loss of the Senator. The Senator must disclose the nature of the interest in the matter from which the Senator is required to abstain.
(2) Disclosure on matters of special private gain or loss to family or principals.—When voting on any matter that the Senator knows would inure to the special private gain or loss of:
(a) 1. Any principal by whom the Senator or the Senator’s spouse, parent, or child is retained or employed;
2. Any parent organization or subsidiary of a corporate principal by which the Senator is retained or employed; or
3. An immediate family member or business associate of the Senator,
the Senator must disclose the nature of the interest of such person in the outcome of the vote.
(b) For the purpose of this Rule, the term:
1. “Immediate family member” means any father, mother, son, daughter, husband, wife, brother, sister, father-in-law, mother-in-law, son-in-law, or daughter-in-law.
2. “Business associate” means any person or entity engaged in or carrying on a business enterprise with the Senator as a partner, joint venturer, corporate shareholder where the shares of such corporation are not listed on any national or regional stock exchange, or co-owner of property.
(3) Methods of disclosure.—If the vote is taken on the floor, disclosure under this Rule or under any related law shall be accomplished by filing with the Secretary a memorandum the substance of which shall be printed in the Journal. If the vote is taken in a committee or subcommittee, the memorandum shall be filed with the committee or subcommittee administrative assistant, who shall file such memorandum in the committee or subcommittee files and with the Secretary. A Senator shall make every reasonable effort to file a memorandum pursuant to this Rule prior to the vote. If it is not possible to file the memorandum prior to the vote, then the memorandum must be filed immediately but not more than fifteen (15) days after the vote. The Secretary shall also make all memoranda filed pursuant to this Rule available online.
(4) Exception.—Notwithstanding this Rule, a Senator may vote on the General Appropriations Act or related implementing legislation without providing any disclosure. However, a Senator must follow the provisions of this Rule when specific appropriations or amendments are considered for inclusion in the General Appropriations Act or related implementing legislation.
See Rule 1.20—Attendance, voting, and disclosure of conflicts.

1.40—Ethics training
Prior to the opening day of a regular session in odd-numbered years, all Senators shall complete a course of at least one (1) hour in length which addresses the requirements of law under the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees, open meetings, public records, and any other subject approved by the President.