Miami Herald by Elizabeth Koh
March 5, 2019
A year after the Parkland mass shooting that claimed 17 lives and spurred change in Tallahassee, a proposal that would block recordings of similar mass killings from the public eye could be one of the first bills heard by the full House and Senate in this year’s legislative session.
HB 7017, which passed its final committee stop Tuesday, would exempt from public record requests any photos, audio or video recordings of events that cause or relate to the deaths of three or more people, not including the perpetrator, in an incident of mass violence. The Senate’s companion bill, SB 186, also cleared its final committee hearing Wednesday morning.
The proposal is one of several dozen public records exemptions being proposed this session, prompting open government advocates to sound the alarm that this year may be one of the most restrictive in shielding information under the state’s Sunshine Law.
But Rep. James Grant, R-Tampa, who chairs the committee sponsoring the House bill, told lawmakers in the House State Affairs committee Tuesday that the bill was an attempt to “strike a balance” between protecting families of victims and allowing for an open press.