Florida Senate President Don Gaetz (R-Niceville) is ready to toughen ethics laws, reform campaign finance, streamline the Florida ballot...just about every issue of timely significance, he told the Orlando Sentinel editorial board, except for gun control.
Gaetz said that one is probably off the table for the legislative session that begins March 5. "I believe there's probably not a lot of value in having the state Legislature get into the business that I believe Congress will get into, and that is debating the adequacy of gun safety and firearms laws in this country," Gaetz said.
"I would oppose any weakening of Second Amendment protections in this state."
Gaetz said Florida's decayed standards of official ethics have caused many in the public to lose respect for elected officials. He said he thinks there should be easier access to politicians' financial disclosures and that they should be subject to wage garnishment and property liens if they don't pay the fines assessed for ethical violations.
Gaetz said he'd also like to see secretive political fundraising organizations called Committees of Continuous Existence either abolished or significantly regulated:
I believe there are people in politics who are subsidizing filet mignon lifestyles out of their Committees of Continuous Existence (CCEs) and I don't think that's right... The minimal reform should be that CCEs ought to be limited and more transparent. Contribution to and from them ought to be reported in 24 hours online and should be used solely for campaign and political purposes — not for people to live out of their CCEs.
Gaetz is also proposing voting reforms that include allowing local officials to use facilities other than city halls and libraries as early voting sites.
He is less enthusiastic about another idea gaining currency among some lawmakers and voting rights advocates: limiting the number of constitutional amendments that the legislature may place on the ballot.
The number of amendments on the Nov. 6 ballot and the fact that some were printed in their entirety were blamed by many for the delays that caused Florida to be last in the nation to declare winners.
Gaetz agreed, the ballot was something that would have been "confusing to a Philadelphia lawyer." But he said he's "skittish" about arbitrary limits. Still, the Senate president told the Sentinel editorial writers, lawmakers who propose amendments for the ballot better be trying to cure real constitutional problems.