St Augustine by Margo Pope
March 1, 2019
If you are a fan of speaking out at government meetings, here’s two bills that need your help.
When the Florida Legislature opens in 2019 session on Tuesday, these bills will be in multitude of creation of new laws and changes in others. You can make that happen by voicing your support.
Florida’s Open Government laws are no exception. If you want to amplify speaking up, sign up for the First Amendment Foundation’s newsletter at www.Floridafaf.org. You can start today. Head to the website and follow the prompts. If you want to put your money behind your support, there’s a donate button, too. Full disclosure: I have been a donor for years.
The First Amendment has been protecting our right of access to government since 1985. Its mission says it is so. “The First Amendment Foundation believes that government openness and transparency is critical to citizen trust and involvement in our democratic society — without Government in the Sunshine, civic engagement cannot bloom. Through ongoing monitoring of the state’s public records and open meetings laws, and the education of government officials and the citizens they serve about those laws, the Foundation promotes the public’s constitutional right to oversee and to participate in the governance process.”
I checked out the site for the upcoming bills related to access. These two stand out because they are focused on public meetings and our right of access. Without access and the ability to speak up at the public meeting of a governing board or government committee, our voices are dimmed.
Here’s the description and comments from Barbara Petersen, FAF president, taken from the Foundation’s website. She explains it better than any paraphrase from me.
“HB 265 Public Meetings: Expands the requirements of Florida’s sunshine law to specifically include entities created by general or special law within the scope of the law and specifies that adoption of resolutions, rules, ordinances, and codes isn’t binding unless adopted at public meetings. Requires publication of an agenda and all materials and attachments to be distributed at the meeting at least three days before a meeting, and that such materials be available for public inspection on the day of the meeting. Stipulates that each member of the public has the right to speak at a meeting for at least three minutes regarding any (1) item on the agenda; (2) pending agenda item relating to the appointment of a public officer, zoning or land use regulation, imposition of fees or taxes, and other interests affecting the rights of residents or businesses; and (3) any matter that is not on the agenda but is within the jurisdiction of the board or commission. Contains limitations on the right to speak. Also requires a board or commission to respond to questions from the public either at the meeting or in writing within 10 days of the meeting. Repeals s. 286.0114, F.S. Amends s. 286.011, F.S. Companion to SB 518. Rep. Newt Newton (D-St. Petersburg). The companion bill in the Senate is SB 518 Public Meetings: Companion to HB 265. Sen. Kevin Rader (D-Boca Raton).”