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New legislation (SB 7014) would significantly impact the role of ethics commissions in Florida

Florida's 2024 Legislative session concluded Friday.
Gary McCullough/AP
FR171182 AP
Florida's 2024 Legislative session concluded Friday.

The Florida Commission on Ethics is a nine-member Commission that serves as the guardian of the standards of conduct for officers and employees of Florida. It functions as an independent commission responsible for investigating and issuing public reports on complaints of breach of the public trust by public officers and employees.

Most state and local government employees, and all elected and appointed officials, are subject to the Commission's jurisdiction. The kinds of violations it typically investigates range from erroneous financial disclosure filings to misuse of office.

And some local municipalities around the state have their own ethics boards or commissions, includingJacksonville, Palm Beach County, Miami-Dade, Tallahassee, and the City of Naples.

New legislation passed during the 2024 session — Senate Bill 7014 — modifies the rules by which the state commission, and local ethics boards, can operate. The changes include requiring complaints be written and signed under oath or affirmation, and be based upon personal knowledge other than hearsay. The changes also apply to local ethics boards. You can read a summary of the bill here.

Critics say these changes will gut the effectiveness of the state commission and local boards because anonymous tips, and information someone might have that isn’t first-hand knowledge, can sometimes lead to uncovering an ethics violation.

Supporters of Senate Bill 7014 say it will prevent the state and local ethics boards from having to spend their time investigating “politically motivated public relations stunts designed to generate headlines.”

Critics also decry the way the legislation was passed. It was amended after its final committee hearing to add the new rules — that means they were added and it was passed by both chambers without any public scrutiny or comment.

We dig into the details on Senate Bill 7014, which has yet to be signed by the governor, with two people who have spent their lives focusing on politics in Florida and its ethics system.

Ben Wilcox, co-founder and Research Director at Integrity Florida. It's a nonpartisan, nonprofit research institute and government watchdog whose mission is to promote integrity in government and expose public corruption.
Martin Dyckman is an editorial writer for the South Florida Sun Sentinel and Florida Trident. He retired in 2006 from the St. Petersburg Times, where he wrote primarily about government and politics for 46 years as a reporter, state capitol bureau chief, and editorial writer.

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