Stand up for ethics reform
Published: Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, February 8, 2012 14:02
A bipartisan effort in the U.S. Senate pushed through a long-awaited ethics reform last week. Voters everywhere should agree this is something to be thankful for.
The Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act, "which would require members of Congress to file electronic disclosures of their stock trades within 30 days of the transactions," passed the Senate with a 96-3 vote on Jan. 2, according to the Chicago Tribune. Similar legislation is pending in the House and is expected to pass the vote expected in the coming weeks.
The STOCK Act also contains language that extends disclosure requirements to hundreds of thousands of federal employees and gives the Securities and Exchange Commission more power to investigate those in Congress who use inside information when buying or selling shares of companies. The White House is backing the legislation and President Barack Obama will likely sign it into law.
The bill should help Congress recover somewhat from the worse-than-dismal approval ratings in recent weeks. More importantly, the legislation is a major step toward increased accountability and transparency in Washington—if only the same could be said about Tallahassee.
An editorial in Wednesday's Tampa Bay Times highlighted an ethics shortage in the Florida Senate. The proposed answer is a bill by Sen. Paula Dockery (R-Lakeland) that would "ban state lawmakers from influencing bills that would have a direct financial impact on themselves, family members, friends or employers," according to the Times editorial.
The bill sounds like the perfect answer to Gov. Rick Scott's purported mission of bringing ethics reform and a higher degree of integrity to state politics. Remember those campaign ads that depicted Scott as an ostensible enemy to "Tallahassee insiders?"
But Senate President Mike Haridopolos has done all he can using procedural processes to squash what could be a sound approach to stop insider trading in the Florida Senate. Haridopolos split the bill between "five different committees for consideration, where it is certain to die by delay, indifference and cronyism," according to the same Times editorial. The Senate leader also tried swapping out Dockery's bill with a watered-down substitute introduced by Sen. John Thrasher (R-St. Augustine).
If Florida's lawmakers actually want to accomplish something meaningful and beneficial to voters this legislative session, Republicans and Democrats need to band together and do something about the conflicts of interest and insider information that damage politicians' credibility and integrity. It also wouldn't hurt if Scott started making good on that campaign promise to fight public corruption.