Tampa Bay Times by Michael Auslen
June 26, 2017
In a new ranking of their voting records on open-government issues, the Florida Society of News Editors has bad news for state lawmakers.
Most of them don’t score very well.
The group, made up of three dozen Florida news organizations including the Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald, published a scorecard this weekend based on a review of how all 160 members of the Florida Legislature voted during the spring session.
In Tampa Bay, the FSNE analysis found, half of the 26 officials were deserving of a D grade, nine earned a C and four earned a B. There were no Fs among local officials and no A’s statewide.
The scorecard is based on how lawmakers voted on a list of priorities provided by the First Amendment Foundation, which is supported largely by newspapers and broadcast stations. A vote in line with the foundation earned points, while a vote against the foundation lost points. And sponsoring or co-sponsoring legislation put more points on the line.
Some of the highest- and lowest-rated lawmakers represent parts of Tampa Bay, including Republican senators who received two of the top four spots: Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg and Bill Galvano of Bradenton, who also represents part of Hillsborough County.
“Our goal is that there be a completely transparent and open government,” Brandes said.
He, along with Rep. Ben Diamond, D-St. Petersburg, sponsored legislation that protects court clerks from being sued if they release confidential information due to an error committed by a lawyer involved in a case. Current law isn’t clear on the issue.
“The clerks serve as basically the front door to our justice system,” said Diamond, who received a B-.
But he noted other issues may have more significance, including a failed proposal that would have allowed two members of a local government body to meet in private, reversing years of law banning such secret conversations and which Diamond called an “existential threat” to open government in Florida. [READ MORE]