FAF Letter to Sen. Baxley Re: SB 808 Exemption/Surplus Lands

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5 January 2018
The Honorable Dennis Baxley
The Florida Senate
404 South Monroe Street, Room 320 Senate Office Building
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1100

Re: SB 808 Exemption/Surplus Lands

Dear Senator Baxley:

We are writing to express our concerns regarding SB 808, 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 SB 808 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, Senator Baxley. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Sincerely,
Barbara A. Petersen, President

Cc: The Honorable Joe Negron, President, The Florida Senate
Jon Kaney, General Counsel, First Amendment Foundation
Sam Morley, General Counsel, Florida Press Association
Gil Thelen, Executive Director, Florida Society of News Editors

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