HomeNewsFlorida legislator who sponsored ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law resigns amid Covid-relief fraud...

Florida legislator who sponsored ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law resigns amid Covid-relief fraud charges

The Florida state consultant who sponsored laws opponents dubbed the “Don’t Say Homosexual” invoice resigned Thursday, a day after was accused of fraudulently acquiring tens of hundreds of {dollars} from a federal Covid-relief program.

State Rep. Joseph Harding, a Republican, mentioned his resignation could be “efficient instantly.” He has been indicted on a slew of costs, together with wire fraud, cash laundering, making false statements and different crimes.

The six-count indictment alleges that Harding, 35, sought greater than $150,000 in Covid-relief loans and obtained roughly $45,000 in January and February 2021, for a pair of firms that had been dormant within the months earlier than the purposes have been filed.

In a resignation letter addressed to Florida Home Speaker Paul Renner and posted to Harding’s marketing campaign Fb web page, he mentioned his authorized woes, which embody a trial within the case set to start in January, required his full consideration.

“It has been an ideal honor to serve the folks of this state and extra particularly the folks of Levy and Marion Counties,” Harding mentioned. “Nonetheless, on account of authorized points that require my full focus, it’s my opinion that now’s the time to permit another person to serve my district.”

Renner didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark Thursday night time.

The indictment alleges that in purposes to the Small Enterprise Administration in 2020, Harding claimed Vak Shack Inc. and Harding Farms had half a dozen workers and gross revenues from the earlier 12 months totaling greater than $800,000. State data confirmed the entities have been dormant and had no workers.

Harding pleaded not responsible to the fees in court docket Wednesday.

In a press release posted Thursday to Fb, Harding mentioned he had repaid “each penny” of the mortgage he obtained.

“There will probably be a time once I can inform my story intimately, and I’ll,” Harding mentioned in assertion, including that he has “achieved my finest to cooperate absolutely with all authorities.”

He didn’t instantly reply Thursday night time to request for added remark.

Harding, whose district consists of Ocala, was first elected in 2020.

He sponsored a invoice this 12 months prohibiting “classroom dialogue about sexual orientation or gender identification” within the state’s main faculties. The invoice, which was criticized as an assault on Florida’s LGBTQ neighborhood, was signed into legislation in March by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Tim Stelloh contributed.

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