Tampa Bay Times by Lawrence Mower
January 22, 2020
TALLAHASSEE — Senate Bill 832 would give lawmakers and Cabinet members the same level of secrecy granted to police officers and judges, making their home addresses, telephone numbers and dates of birth private.
But while threats made against cops and judges are an occupational hazard, lawmakers supporting the bill offered no evidence that they needed the same protections. Regardless, a Florida Senate committee approved the bill Tuesday, along party lines, that would make secret the most basic details about state lawmakers.
Under the bill, the personal information and places of employment of their spouses and children would be exempt. So, too, would be information that lawmakers don’t disclose when they run for office, such as the names and locations of the schools their children attend.
Four Republicans voted for and three Democrats voted against the bill, which was sponsored by Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland. She said the exemption was needed because of threats made to lawmakers, but she didn’t cite any Florida examples.
The bill has to pass two more committees before making it to the floor. A companion bill, House Bill 1191, sponsored by Rep. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach, has not yet been heard in the House.
Providing such a broad exemption would be a stunning setback for Florida’s broad public records law, which makes a wide variety of state and local government records open to the public.