State leaders vow to pass ethics reform

Integrity Florida spearheads effort

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – State legislative leaders are vowing to pass the first comprehensive ethics reform bill in Florida in more than three decades.

The push for reform is being spearheaded by a new government watchdog group.

Dan Krassner and Ben Willcox created Integrity Florida to make government more transparent. It appears to be working.

They've only been in business for one year, but already the dynamic duo has a chance to make major changes to state ethics laws.

"Florida is leading the country in corruption, and it's time to crack down," Krassner said.

At a pre-legislative session forum in the state Capitol on Wednesday, House Speaker Will Weatherford sang the groups praises.

"I though Integrity Florida's report talking about 75 percent of the money spent on campaigns today is outside of the campaign is eye opening," Weatherford said.

Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz have made ethics reform a priority, vowing to pass the first comprehensive reform package in Florida in 36 years.

"We don't believe that public office ought to be an opportunity for private gain," Gaetz said.

The 52-page reform bill has already passed one committee in the senate. Krassner says there's lot of good stuff inside, but there's also provisions hurting the cause.

The bill allows law enforcement agencies to pass leads on to the state ethic commission. It allows the state to garnish wages of people who don't pay their ethics fines. But it also gives politicians caught lying on their financial disclosure forms 30 days to fix the mistake.

"There are a few areas that need to be cleaned up that essentially give some politicians a 'get out of jail free' card, and those provisions should be taken out of the bill," Krassner said.

Had the change been in place in 2010, former state Sen. Jim Norman could have simply added a half-million dollar home to a form and avoided the ethics commission.

Legislative leaders are also vowing to shut the revolving door between the Legislature and lobbyists after finding out that the state's last two House speakers have joined up to open their own Tallahassee lobbying firm.