02/17/16 – By Jim Turner
A proposal that would have prevented the release of names of hunters in Florida was shot down Wednesday in a Senate committee.
The Rules Committee voted 5-4 to reject a measure (SB 1364) that would have created a public-records exemption for personal information — such as names, dates of birth, addresses and telephone numbers — of people getting hunting licenses from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Sen. Alan Hays, a Umatilla Republican who sponsored the bill, said the proposal was designed to protect gun owners who could be targeted by people who use the state’s public-records law as a way to track down and burglarize the homes of gun owners.
“My hope is that nobody goes and steals any of the guns,” Hays said. “I hope that the next time you have murder on the street that it’s not from a stolen weapon.”
Sen. Jack Latvala, a Clearwater Republican who voted against the measure, said during the meeting that Hays’ reasoning for the bill was “a reach.”
Barbara Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation, welcomed the defeat of the bill, which she labeled “the Ted Nugent Act” because of publicity surrounding a bear hunt last year. The state issued 3,778 permits for the controversial bear hunt, the first such hunt in Florida in more than two decades.
Among the people buying permits were rock star Ted Nugent, House members Frank Artiles of Miami, Jay Trumbull of Panama City and Tom Goodson of Titusville, and Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Aliese Priddy.
Nugent, who didn’t participate in the hunt, was contacted by the Orlando Sentinel when the commission released the names and information of the permit holders.
Petersen said the names of people applying for permits should remain public, but acknowledged that the Fish and Wildlife commission could reconsider the information it collects, which for the bear hunt in October included telephone numbers and emails.
“I think Fish & Wildlife needs to look at what information they’re collecting and decide what they need for regulatory purposes,” Petersen said.
(Disclosure: The News Service of Florida is a member of the First Amendment Foundation.)
Hays’ proposal had cleared two prior committees without opposition.
A similar House bill (HB 1153) was unanimously supported by the Agriculture & Natural Resources Subcommittee last month and has not been scheduled for its next stop before the State Affairs Committee.