Orlando Sentinel by Editorial Board
March 14, 2018
Florida’s Constitution Revision Commission, now in session for the first time since 1998, has drawn more attention than usual to the state’s primary governing document and its fundamental rights. As the commission considers what proposed constitutional amendments belong on the 2018 ballot, it’s important for voters not to forget that a right they enshrined 26 years ago is being hollowed out by their elected representatives in Tallahassee.
In 1992 Florida voters, by a 4-1 margin, elevated public access to government meetings and records from a statutory guarantee to a constitutional right. The amendment allows legislators to make narrow exceptions to this right, but only if they cite a “public necessity.” In 2004, voters amended the constitution again to require a super majority of two-third of legislators to approve any exceptions.
Even so, legislators have managed to carve out 1,122 exceptions. Some of those exceptions, such as concealing Social Security numbers to prevent identity theft or highly sensitive security information to guard against terrorist attacks, are defensible. Many are not.
One exception, for example, means citizens can’t see details of economic-development deals made with their tax dollars until after those deals have been completed. Another allows certain athletic organizations at public universities to hide the details of multimillion-dollar contracts with coaches. Another says reports of serious medical errors or accidents at nursing homes and health facilities are off-limits to the public. [READ MORE]