State Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, has filed a bill to temporarily exempt from the state’s strict Sunshine Law unsolicited proposals that could be done as part of a public-private partnership.
House Bill 65 would exempt such proposals relating to public infrastructure or facilities from open records and meetings requirements under certain circumstances, according to the text of the bill.
It only allows an exemption for a certain period of time, and requires any portion of a meeting where exempt proposals are discussed to be recorded, and any records generated to be maintained.
“No portion of the exempt meeting may be held off the record,” according to the bill. Eventually, all information about the proposal would be made public, Steube said Wednesday.
It’s meant to encourage free enterprise, he said.
“These are only unsolicited proposals, something the city has not put out in a (request for proposal),” said Steube.
Companies interested in doing a project with a public entity such as a city or a county might spend a considerable amount of time and money developing a proposal, and if they submit an unsolicited plan, they run the risk of a competitor stealing their work entirely, said Steube.
The bill is designed to protect such sensitive competitive information until officials open all the proposals, then all would become public information as well.
“Free markets are supposed to work that way. We’re trying to give public entities that support,” said Steube. “Ultimately, it saves the taxpayer money. People won’t submit if they’re concerned about competitors getting information. It just puts people at a competitive disadvantage.”
Efforts to reach members of the First Amendment Foundation for comment were unsuccessful Wednesday.
Steube also filed a related bill, House Bill 63, that would create a Division of Public-Private Partnerships.
A state task force studied partnerships for public facilities and made recommendations in a report issued last summer.
Steube included a number of its recommendations, according to David Cruz, assistant general counsel for the Florida League of Cities Inc.
“We feel the current bill gives much of the flexibility that is needed in doing public-private partnerships,” Cruz said after meeting Wednesday with Steube in Tallahassee. “These projects are extremely complex at times. Every project is different. Flexibility is key in order for our cities to do such projects.
“So, we think Rep. Steube’s bill is a step in that direction, in offering more flexibility in doing such projects,” he said. “We would like to continue to work with him to get a couple more ideas into the bill.”
The bill is slated for consideration during the Florida Legislature session slated to convene March 3.