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Dockery tries again to thwart conflict-of-interest votes

Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, resuscitated her proposal to prevent lawmakers from voting on legislation that benefits them, their families or business associates.

It marks the fifth time she has introduced the ethics bill. Still, she hopes this is the year for SB 552, which she calls a clear recommendation of the Attorney General's Statewide Grand Jury on Public Corruption.

"The Florida Legislature must take action to ensure that our state is at the forefront of initiatives helping to restore citizens' faith in government," Dockery said in a statement.

Currently, senators must disclose conflicts-of-interest but only within 15 days of their vote. Under Dockery's proposal, members would be required to disclose those conflicts of interest before abstaining from a vote.

Members of the Legislature would also have to disclose conflicts with line-item appropriations in the General Appropriations Act.

The Florida Commission on Ethics has asked for stronger laws to limit voting conflicts by legislators, but, as Dockery knows, the bills are rarely given a chance in committees.

The House sponsor is Rep. Fred Costello, R-Ormond Beach, who sponsored a version last session.