Chapter 119 of state law contains directions to government agencies and employees, as well as businesses performing duties “on behalf” of governments, for upholding the constitutional provision. In part, it states: “Every person who has custody of a public record shall permit the record to be inspected and copied by any person desiring to do so, at any reasonable time, under reasonable conditions, and under supervision by the custodian of the public records.”

The courts and Florida’s attorney general have issued guidelines on how to comply with those terms. For example, the inspection or replication of records is supposed to be allowed promptly and without requiring people to provide their identities or explain the reason for their requests.

Many, if not most, government agencies and employees routinely comply with records requests. When they do not, however, citizens need some avenue of recourse to ensure their rights are upheld. Steube’s SB 80 would remove the one weapon they have to fight back when their right to public access is denied..

SB 80 is scheduled to be heard Tuesday morning by the Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee, chaired by Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala. We urge Baxley, who has the power to nix this ill-conceived measure, and his fellow committee members, to stand up for open government and the average citizen’s right to access public records and reject SB 80. Steube’s bill is a solution in search of a problem that would dramatically weaken Florida’s open government law and, in turn, the people’s right to challenge scofflaw governments. [READ MORE]