Florida Lawmakers Earn Failing Grades on Public Records Transparency

Sunshine State News by Allison Nielsen

June 25, 2017

Florida lawmakers didn’t make the grade when it came to accessibility for public records and meetings, according to a new scorecard released from the Florida Society of News Editors.

State legislators were graded based on information provided from the Florida First Amendment Foundation about how lawmakers introduced public records bills and how they voted on a variety of proposals relating to public records.

Legislators received three points for a floor vote, seven points for co-sponsoring a bill and 10 points for sponsoring a bill on the FFAF list. Voting against opennness loses points while voting for openness gains points.

State lawmakers received a “bonus point” if they communicated with the FFAF about a bill.

A Palm Beach Post analysis found most lawmakers didn’t do too hot — of the 160 legislators, three received “F’s,” 77 received “D’s,” 71 got “C’s,” and nine received “B’s.” No state lawmakers received an “A” letter grade.

Because the Florida Legislature operates under the Sunshine Law, any records made or received by any public agency in the course of its official business are available for inspection, unless specifically exempted by the Florida Legislature.

FAF president Barbara Petersen said this year saw a “near record” of new public records exemptions created, but noted “we see a few bills that would actually improve access to either meetings or records.”

In 2017, the Legislature created a total of 28 exemptions, sending them to Gov. Rick Scott for approval. If approved, the total number of exemptions would be nearly 1,200 since the 1960s when the Sunshine Law first went into effect.

The highest grades, a B-plus, went to two Democrats: Reps. Joe Geller, D-Aventura, and Lori Berman, D-Lantana.
More Republicans fared worse than Democrats, most of whom received C-minus grades. GOP lawmakers, on the other hand, nearly failed, receiving D-plus grades. [READ MORE]

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