The Independent Florida Alligator by Editorial Board
Whether you realize it or not, you benefit from and want there to be open information laws.
When Richard Spencer came to UF, you wanted to know how much the university spent on security. When student fees increase, you want to know why. When the legislature is in session, you want to know what they’re voting on, why and how it will affect you.
Anyone can file a public records request. But it’s the job of reporters to fight for this information and make it public. And the reason we’re able to do this is because of the state’s open-records laws, called Sunshine Laws.
But these laws are increasingly being restricted. For example, Florida law exempts the names, addresses and telephone numbers of certain government employees. It has expanded over the years, exempting the same information plus date of birth for people who hold or used to hold any of now more than 50 job titles.
This week is Sunshine Week, a national initiative launched in 2005 by the American Society of News Editors, which celebrates open government laws by promoting conversation on the importance of it.
Even in places with open public records laws, many government offices make it extremely difficult for people to get the information they seek. Some hinder the process by citing privacy acts and other laws — even in cases that might not apply. In other cases, they provide the records with large sections blacked out, making it impossible to read. [READ MORE]