Florida Senate President Don Gaetz was sworn in Tuesday along with his plans to move ethics reform forward in the Legislature this year.
Gaetz has said in the past that he will make anti-corruption measures for state lawmakers a focus of his leadership in the Senate. In the past, bills aimed at passing ethics reform have failed in the Florida Senate.
Howevever, Gaetz has already made good on his promise to change ethics rules by changing some Florida Senate rules.
The new rules must be approved by the Senate on Tuesday. If adopted, senators will be under tighter ethical guidelines than in the past. Gaetz is calling for members to abstain from voting if there is a conflict of interest, as the House rules state. Until now, senators only had to disclose a conflict within 15 days of voting.
Dan Krassner of Integrity Florida, which is a group that is pushing ethics reform in Florida, says this year might be the year for big changes because of Gaetz's priorities.
"There is nothing more powerful than having a sitting Senate president making an issue a priority and we are grateful that President Gaetz has made ethics reform a priority issue," Krassner says. "It significantly increases the chance of meaningful ethics reform passing."
Krassner says it has been 36 years since the Legislature has passed any new ethics reform. He says that's because, up until now, there hasn't been any "leadership to address that important issue."
Krassner says that because of this, our ethics laws have been "frozen in time since the 70's."
The Legislative session begins in March but, soon, lawmakers will start introducing and drafting bills for the coming year. Among them should be several bills aimed at making Tallahassee less corrupt.
"We are excited about what the bills and legislation will look like and we are confident that we will see significant reform in the coming [Legislative] session," Krassner says.