Courtesy of The Miami Herald
Published November 4, 2017
TALLAHASSEE — The intense turmoil involving a
senator’s extramarital affair and the covert surveillance of another
powerful lawmaker is threatening to disrupt the next session of the Florida
Legislature, a top legislator said Thursday.
Latvala of Clearwater, a Republican candidate for governor,
said he sees an “organized effort to tear down the Senate
... and make us weak, so that we have a hard time standing
up” in the 2018 session, which begins Jan. 9.
Latvala, entering his 16th and final year in the Senate, is
the second most influential senator as chairman of the
His remarks, which are likely to increase tensions with the
House, came during the annual Associated Press legislative
planning session in a question-and-answer session with
reporters. Some questions cited last week’s revelation that
a private investigator was hired to follow Latvala to a
dinner at a restaurant with a female lobbyist he has
described as a friend for 20 years.
Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, speaks during the
special legislative session last June in Tallahassee.
The unidentified investigator took a picture of
Latvala kissing the lobbyist on the lips. After news of the picture
circulated in Tallahassee, the lobbyist signed an affidavit swearing that
she and Latvala have not had a romantic relationship.
Latvala said he knows who paid a private investigator to tail him but he
declined to say who he thinks it was.
He included a lengthy critique of House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land
O’Lakes, who he accused of “a reign ... I won’t say a reign of terror, but
there is not a good feeling by many, many members of the House about the
control that’s exercised on them.”
Corcoran, who declined to comment Thursday, is considering entering the GOP
primary for governor against Latvala and state Agriculture Commissioner Adam
Putnam, who also attended Thursday’s planning session.
Before he spoke to reporters, Putnam joked about the current capital
“It’s hard to compete with sex, but I’ll do my best to keep it interesting,”
Latvala said Corcoran’s crusade last session against tourism and economic
development programs was not about policy but was done to attract publicity.
He suggested unnamed House members have engaged in extramarital affairs
during Corcoran’s tenure — but nothing was done.
“We‘re all human beings,” Latvala said.
The only House Republican who has gone public with criticism of Corcoran’s
aggressive leadership is Rep. Kathleen Peters, R-Treasure Island, a Latvala
Corcoran criticized the Senate for a “wall of silence” after last week’s
abrupt resignation of Democratic Sen. Jeff Clemens of Atlantis, who
acknowledged an extramarital affair with a lobbyist. Clemens was in line to
become the leader of Senate Democrats next fall.
Latvala said the fallout from the Clemens controversy underscores the need
for a package of ethics reforms in the 2018 session of the Legislature,
including a ban on family members of legislators lobbying the Legislature
and a ban on legislators’ law partners lobbying the Legislature.
The most prominent sibling of a legislator who lobbies the Legislature is
Michael Corcoran, the speaker’s brother.
Another example is long-time South Florida lobbyist Ron Book, the father of
Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation.
In the 2017 session, the Senate quickly rejected a series of ethics measures
pushed by Corcoran and passed by the House. They included extending from two
to six years the ban on legislators lobbying in the Capitol and requiring
local elected officials to comply with a broader financial disclosure law
that applies to legislators.
“The bottom line is, you can legislate till the cows come in, but you can‘t
legislate ethics and morality in people,” Latvala told reporters.