Editorial: A Little Sunshine

Mar 18, 2010

The Gainesville Sun

Our Sunshine Law requires local elected officials to do the public's business in public. But the Florida Legislature carved itself a gaping loophole that has corrupted it and its budget process.

How corrupt? Last year former House speaker Ray Sansom was indicted for quietly funneling tens of millions in state dollars to Northwest Florida State college, which later offered him a $110,000-a-year part-time job.

Lawmakers can clean up their act by passing a joint resolution (HJR 241/SJR 440) sponsored by state Sen. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, and Rep. Keith Fitzgerald, D-Sarasota. The resolution calls for a constitutional amendment that would prohibit members of legislative conference committees from discussing issues out of the public purview; ban most amendments to bills in the last five days of the session to keep lawmakers from slipping pork into bills; mandate that budgets be presented in a way that the "average reader" can discern exactly where the money will be spent and how it is being funded; and give anyone who objects to a Sunshine Law ruling by lawmakers the right to take their case to circuit court.

In short, the Legislature would have to operate under the same rules as city councils, county commissions and school boards, as it should.

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Political advertisement paid for and approved by Dan Gelber.