News-Press by Bill Smith
April 15, 2018
An annual review of the state Legislature’s record on open government issues reveals that while a dozen bills providing Sunshine Law exemptions won approval, only two were passed over objections from a leading open government watchdog group.
The First Amendment Foundation took positions on 17 issues including proposals for additional exemptions, on which companion bills were filed in each legislative branch.
Staving off most of the attempts to increase Government in the Sunshine exemptions was the high point of a year that still saw all of the bills endorsed by the group defeated.
“It was a decent year there were far more exemptions created last year than this year,” said Barbara Peterson, executive director of the First Amendment Foundation, who said her group carefully considers proposed exemptions
“In the Constitution, there is a standard for the creation of exemptions, they have to be in single subject bills so it couldn’t be tacked on to a 400-page bill regulating the insurance industry,” Peterson said. “The exemption has to have a statement of public necessity; it’s a very broad statement in the Constitution that is refined by Florida Statutes.”
A scorecard developed by Peterson’s organization and a group of journalists provided grades to Southwest Florida lawmakers on open government issues.
Scores for three state senators from Lee and Collier counties were ranged from C+ to F-, while the six House members were ranked from A- to D+.
A scoring matrix used in determining the grades resulted in a wide disparity for individual lawmakers for the positions on the same issue.
That issue was a bill passed after the shootings at a Parkland high school. [READ MORE]