HOUSE SPEAKER PULLING A DELAY?
With the practice of selecting Florida House Speakers years in advance, it's a good idea to take a look at how their businesses have profited during the time they are waiting to ascend to the speaker's chair.
Jeremy Wallace does this in one case for today's Sarasota Herald Tribune.
It seems as though current speaker Allan Bense, who is seriously considering a run for the U.S. Senate next year, is a major stockholder and listed as a vice president in the Panama City-based GAC Contractors (their Website was down early this morning...hmmmmmm). As part of the 2001 economic incentive stimulus package, GAC won a $29.7 million contract to build four rest areas in Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties. Wallace notes that Bense voted for the bill and was a member of a key committee that designated money for the project.
While it isn't illegal for a state lawmaker from being a partner in a company that receives state contracts, it raises the specter of a conflict of interest, especially when the legislator is on a key committee which has direct influence over the amount involved.
Lance de Haven Smith, a political science professor at Florida State University, said it's not uncommon for state legislators, who are part-timers, to have conflicts of interest on votes because they have various businesses back home. But it's rare for a prominent legislator to have direct ties to a company bidding on projects decided on by bureaucrats that rely on the Legislature for funding.
Especially when you know that that legislator is going to be Speaker of the House in a short period of time.