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Commentary, sarcasm and snide remarks from a Florida resident of over thirty years. Being a glutton for punishment is a requirement for residency here. Who am I? I've been called a moonbat by Michelle Malkin, a Right Wing Nut by Daily Kos, and middle of the road by Florida blog State of Sunshine. Tell me what you think.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Florida the rules are different here Chapter CIV

Florida Senators have passed a law requiring legislators to tell the truth. Do Floridians really want the truth. Didn't George Bernard Shaw once say if you want to make someone angry or laugh, tell the truth? TFM is skeptical about this law ever changing the way Florida politicians but who knows. Isn't this a great state or what?

Linked to- Bright & Early, Bullwinkle, StikNstein,

TALLAHASSEE -- Encouraging development from the Florida Legislature: Senators approved a bill Thursday that requires them to tell the truth.

Discouraging development from the Florida Legislature: They did so only after more than 15 minutes of heated debate, and even then, three voted against the measure.

Yes, that's right. Three Democrats -- among them a felon -- voted against the "Truth in Government Act." The bill requires that lawmakers, their staff and lobbyists take an oath whenever they go before a House or Senate committee, and it subjects them to felony perjury charges if they lie.

"People come up here and lie every day of the week, and the statements they make affect 18-million people in the state of Florida," said bill sponsor Alex Villalobos, R-Miami. "This will restore some integrity in government."

So who would actually vote against integrity in government?

That would be Sens. Al Lawson, Mandy Dawson and Gary Siplin.

Lawson said he didn't have a problem with the provision affecting lobbyists. But applying it to lawmakers like himself went too far.

"This is the biggest conspiracy that I have ever seen," he said. "Why would you suggest a member is not telling the truth? Sen. Villalobos is trying to hold us up to the same standards as lobbyists."

Yes, other senators told him during an emotional debate. That's precisely the point.

"If we're going to hold lobbyists to this standard, we should hold ourselves to the very same standard," said Brandon Republican Ronda Storms.

Past troubles

Siplin and Dawson, some later noted, already had run-ins with the law and well-documented instances where their honesty was called into question.

Siplin, of Orlando, is currently appealing a grand theft conviction for having employees work on his re-election campaign on state time.

In 2003, Dawson underwent a rehabilitation program to avoid prosecution on a charge of prescription drug fraud. In 2002, she acknowledged that she lied in a biography claiming she had a degree from Florida A&M University.

"What if I don't know if what I'm saying is true, actually isn't true?" she said after the vote. "That opens the floodgates for ethics complaints and lawyers."

But the bill would apply only to lawmakers who knowingly make false statements, a reporter pointed out.

"Well, I've been around for a long time," she said. "And I just don't know about some of this feel-good stuff."

Several senators were flabbergasted that any elected official would vote against a bill promoting honesty. After the vote, some lobbyists were even shaking their head at the debate.

"This is the single most important bill the Legislature will do," said Democrat Jeremy Ring of South Florida. "It's beyond me that any of us could vote against this and say, 'We're against truth.' This bill will change the way government in the state of Florida is essentially done forever."

Sen. Nancy Argenziano, R-Dunnellon, was blunt as usual: "Politically, it's a dumb thing to vote against anything that's for good government. Their excuses were ridiculous."

The bill exempts members of the public who are not being paid to speak before a committee.

But lobbyists, legislative employees and lawmakers who go before Senate and House committees - critical stops for a bill making its way to the chamber floors - would have to sign a form that amounts to a sworn oath.

If later found to have knowingly lied about "any material matter," they could be prosecuted for perjury and sentenced to between five and 15 years in prison if convicted.

In Texas, anyone testifying before a legislative committee does so under oath, though it's not clear whether the requirement applies to lawmakers. A few years ago, the Idaho House of Representatives got flak for approving a measure that specifically exempted lawmakers.

House to amend bill

The House version of the bill has not been scheduled for a floor vote. It exempts legislators and staffers acting in their "official capacity." But House sponsor Marcelo Llorente, a South Florida Republican, said he will amend it to match the Senate version, and he hopes to bring it to the floor next week.

"I've been waiting 11 years for a bill like this," said Argenziano. "I've been lied to up here from the first day I came up here in the House of Representatives.

"If you intentionally lie, you should be prosecuted."

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