St. Augustine Record
January 15, 2020
When the Legislature starts filing bills related to open government, there’s usually a little good, but a whole lot of bad and ugly.
This year is no different. Florida’s First Amendment Foundation is tracking roughly 100 bills, most of which would close access to records or shut the public out of meetings. Often, there’s little reason cited for hiding records or closing meetings, despite the requirement — engraved in the Florida Constitution — that statutes include a stated purpose and justification for exempting information from public review.
And the reasons have to make sense. That’s where many proposed laws stumble. They make wild assertions about the potential for misuse of information, while ignoring the bad precedent set by allowing such sketchy explanations to be written into statutes.
That’s certainly the case with bills filed this session that would exempt home addresses of certain state and local employees and elected officials from public disclosure — anywhere. That type of exemption almost made sense when it was first enacted for law enforcement officials, judges and the like — people who had a reasonable fear that someone might want to retaliate against them for an adverse ruling or arrest.