Citrus County Chronicle Editorial
July 13, 2017
Many state lawmakers flunk on open records.
Without transparency, citizens cannot expect representation.
A single quote should tell you all you need to know about what Florida’s legislators think of being transparent to you, their constituents: “The Sunshine Law is great in principle.”
That quote comes from Rep. Rick Roth, R-Wellington, who received a D-minus in a recent tallying of state legislators’ support for and opposition to Florida’s commendably strong open-records laws. The scorecard was compiled by the Florida Society of News Editors in conjunction with the First Amendment Foundation, and graded legislators based on how they addressed and voted on open-records bills.
Wellington was one of the more than 80 of Florida’s 160 legislators to receive a D or F on the scorecard. In total, three lawmakers were given Fs, 77 Ds, 71 Cs and just nine Bs. No lawmakers received As.
The downside to having better-than-average open-records laws and lawmakers who oppose them is that each session, new efforts are undertaken to weaken the laws that ensure you are aware of what your government is up to. On average, roughly a dozen amendments or exceptions to the Sunshine laws are passed each year by the Legislature.
Characterizing the most recent legislative session, First Amendment Foundation President Barbara Petersen said: “A near record number of new exemptions (were) created, but we see few bills that actually would improve access to either meetings or records.”
Is that what you want from your lawmakers?
Whether you agree or disagree with the measures proposed and passed this session, it’s worth considering a point made by Petersen to the Herald: “Every exemption that’s created is an exception to the Florida Constitution.”
Florida’s public-records laws are crucial to us as journalists, because they allow us to keep you informed about what’s happening in your state and in your backyard. Much of the most significant reporting we do is only possible because of the state’s open-records laws, as is almost all of the crime reporting we do.
But they’re also crucial to you, because they allow you to hold your government to account. [READ MORE]