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Senator Jeff Clemens, District 31 — Press Release


January 9, 2017

CONTACT: Chauncey Graham, (561) 540-1140

Senator Clemens aims to allow Legislators to abstain, not vote on issues that benefit them

Tallahassee —

Florida State Senator Jeff Clemens (D-Lake Worth) has filed common sense legislation to end the practice of State Legislators voting on bills that benefit them or their businesses.

Listening to the desire of constituents who believe, rightly or wrongly, that government is set up to benefit those in power, rather than the taxpayers, SB306 makes a simple, but significant, change to current law by prohibiting a public officer from voting on a matter that would be of any personal, direct benefit to them.

"It seems so easy to say that Floridians don’t want their elected officials to benefit from their votes,” Clemens said. “But while there has been a lot of talk about system reform, no one has yet addressed the real elephant in the room. Legislators should abstain when voting on issues that could make them money.”

This change comes as a response to a recommendation from the Florida Commission on Ethics and a statewide grand jury convened to investigate public corruption. Under current law, lawmakers are barred from voting on legislation that would provide them with a “special private gain.” According to the commission, this definition is unclear and has consistently been misinterpreted by government attorneys resulting in a high level of complaints and violations. Clarifying the language to read “any gain” and maintaining the disclosure requirement will make a significant impact on addressing undue influence in the lawmaking process.

Clemens himself works for a non-profit that lobbies the Legislature and has repeatedly announced that fact before taking votes. But Senate rules and state law compel him to vote, despite the disclosure. He would prefer to abstain, and thinks others should too.

“There have been a lot of changes and proposals made to try to curb outside influences, but none to address the issue that bothers the public the most,” Clemens said. “We should not be voting on issues that benefit us. Period.”