Gaetz has a net worth of $24 million and is one of the Legislature’s wealthiest members.
A bill that would have prohibited lawmakers from also holding jobs in the higher education system, sponsored by Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, was killed on a 6-6 vote in a Senate committee last session.
Rep. Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, the incoming leader of House Democrats, said any restrictions on outside employment for legislators should be done carefully so they don’t discourage people from running for office.
“Do we want representation only from the wealthy and retired, or do we find a way to incentivize public service?” Thurston said.
Gaetz also said conflict-of-interest rules for legislators are too lax, especially in the Senate.
Under current legislative rules adopted by lawmakers themselves, members may vote on an issue in which they have a conflict, but they must declare the conflict publicly. Senators have until 15 days after casting the vote to declare the conflict.
“If you or your family benefits directly from a piece of legislation, you should declare the conflict, you shouldn’t vote, and you shouldn’t try to influence the vote,” Gaetz said.
For several years, Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, among others, have filed bills to do that, but they have never gone anywhere.
“Glad he’s bringing something forward. Hope it is meaningful,” said Dockery, who’s term-limited and will leave the Legislature next month.
Weatherford, who like Gaetz will take office on Nov. 20, issued a statement that said: “It’s good news for Florida that House and Senate leadership are in agreement that there is a need for meaningful campaign finance and ethics reform. This issue will be a Senate and House priority.”
Dan Krassner, executive director of Integrity Florida, a nonpartisan watchdog group, said he senses a newfound commitment to ethics reform in Florida’s Capitol.
“The stars are aligned for Floridians, after a 36-year drought, to finally see ethics reform taken seriously in our Capitol,” Krassner said.
Herald/Times staff writer Mary Ellen Klas contributed to this report.