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Senators vote against chairman on ethics bill

Lawmakers who also work with the state university system won't have to chose between jobs after an ethics bill died in the Senate today.

SB 1560, which would have prevented lawmakers from working with or contracting with state colleges or universities, was voted down 6-6 in the Senate Rules Committee despite the fact that Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, the sponsor of the bill, is the committee chair.

Thrasher said he considered postponing the vote on the bill, but decided to let the bill die if other lawmakers didn’t think it was worthwhile.

Opponents feared the bill would unfairly single out university workers. One former veteran who is also an adjunct at Tallahassee Community College, testified that the measure would prevent him from running for office.

“This bill is going to prevent me from helping the citizens of Florida out,” Dickens said.

There have been several cases of legislators who landed high-paying jobs with the university system as a result of being elected, said Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, the bill's co-sponsor.

Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Ormond Beach resigned in 2008 from her $120,000 per year position at Florida State University. She said implementing the bill would make the Legislature lose important expertise about the needs of the state university system.

“I think this is setting a precedent that should never be set for any profession,” she said.

Sen. Dennis Jones, R-Seminole, who also helped sink the bill, is a vice president at St. Petersburg College.

The proposal's other component, which got little attention, outlines requirements for public officials, including the governor, to place assets that could pose a conflict of interest into blind trusts.