5 January 2018
The Honorable Danny Burgess
Florida House of Representatives
402 South Monroe Street, Room 303 House Office Building
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1300
Re: CS/HB 705 Exemption/Surplus Lands
Dear Representative Burgess:
We are writing to express our concerns regarding CS/HB 705, creating a public record exemption for records relating to the sale of surplus lands including written valuations, documents related to the valuations, and written offers to purchase such lands. The legislation stipulates that the exemption expires when a water management district has approved a contract or agreement regarding the purchase, exchange, or disposal of the surplus lands or one year after the valuation is completed. The records are otherwise disclosed only at the sole discretion of the water management district.
Of particular concern to us is the fact that the valuation becomes public only after a water management district approves a contract or agreement for transfer of surplus lands. Allowing access to such critical information after approval by the districts thwarts the public’s ability to oversee the actions of the government agency managing our surplus lands and runs contrary to the purpose and intent of our open government laws.
We respectfully suggest, therefore, that CS/HB 705 be amended to allow access to the valuation within a certain period of time prior to approval by a water management district.
Thank you for your attention to our concerns, Representative Burgess. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Barbara A. Petersen, President
Cc: The Honorable Richard Corcoran, Speaker, Florida House of Representatives
Jon Kaney, General Counsel, First Amendment Foundation
Sam Morley, General Counsel, Florida Press Association
Gil Thelen, Executive Director, Florida Society of News Editors