Letter to Representative Rick Roth re: HB 79 Public Meetings

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17 January 2018

The Honorable Rick Roth

Florida House of Representatives

402 South Monroe Street, Room 1301, The Capitol

Tallahassee, FL 32399-1300

 

Re: HB 79 Public Meetings

 

Dear Representative Roth:

 

We are writing in response to HB 79, which amends Florida’s Sunshine Law. While generally supportive of the bill, we do have a concern regarding subparagraph (2), which stipulates that the requirements of the Sunshine Law do not apply to meetings of two or more members of a collegial body “[s]o long as no official acts are taken and any public business is not discussed.”

 

From our discussions with staff last session, it is our understanding that this section of the bill is intended to codify case law that allows members of a board or commission to socialize with one another. While we don’t oppose such codification, we are concerned that the language as currently drafted is too vague and could easily be misconstrued.

 

Therefore, we have taken the liberty of drafting an amendment to subparagraph (2) of HB 79 that addresses our concerns and clarifies that the exception applies only to social gatherings. That amendment is attached.

 

If you have any questions or would like additional information about our proposed amendment, please do not hesitate to contact us.

 

Sincerely,

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

 

 

PROPOSED AMENDMENT TO HB 79

 

On page 3, lines 62 –65, delete all of said lines and insert:

 

(2) Subsection (1) may not be construed to require public notice of and access to any social gathering of two or more members of the same board or commission where:

(a) they may be part of a large group;

(b) the gathering is not directly related to their official duties; or

(c) the contact between two or more members of the same board or commission is coincidental; and

(d) no official acts are taken and any public business is not discussed.

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