Half of Florida lawmakers earn failing grades on open government

Orlando Weekly by Monivette Cordeiro

Photo via Florida House of Representatives

June 26, 2017

A new scorecard shows half of Florida lawmakers earned failing grades on their support of open meetings and public records in this year’s legislative session.

The Associated Press reports 77 lawmakers earns Ds and three earned Fs out of 160 legislators, according to a grading system produced by the Florida Society of News Editors along with Florida’s First Amendment Foundation. Out of the remaining lawmakers, 71 earned Cs and nine earned Bs – and no legislator received an A.

“As an advocate for open government, the grades, of course, are disappointing,” Barbara Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation, told the AP.

Florida’s public records law says that any records made or received by any public agency are available for public inspection, unless exempted by the Florida Legislature. The state’s open government law establishes the public’s right to access to local and state meetings. During the 2017 legislative session, lawmakers approved more than 28 new exemptions to Florida’s sunshine laws, including a public records exemption for murder witnesses and another bill allowing people who are arrested to request that their booking photograph be removed from mugshot websites. The lowest score on the card went to Rep. Bob Rommel, R-Naples, who sponsored a bill to make searches for public college president secret and another bill to allow two members of a government board to meet in private. Both measures ultimately failed. [READ MORE]

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