South Florida Media Network by Alejandra Marquez Janse
January 30, 2020
A proposed law would make hundreds of lawmakers’ home addresses and phone numbers secret. But both a state lawmaker and a First Amendment advocate say the measure is unnecessary and a threat to democracy.
Jose Javier Rodriguez, a Democratic state senator who represents parts of Miami-Dade from Coral Gables to Key Biscayne, says the measure, which last week passed a Senate committee, jeopardizes the public’s ability to scrutinize lawmakers.
“Florida has a strong public records law, and we should all be proud of it,” he said. “Every year they chip at it, but this one includes all lawmakers. For the constitution, we need to justify the changes, and I don’t think the case has been made yet.”
Barbara Petersen, president emeritus of the First Amendment Foundation, a Florida nonprofit that aims to protect the public records law, cited scores of previous exemptions.
“There are already 1,159 exemptions to the public records law,” she said. “And there are about 36 new proposed exemptions in this legislative session.”
Of those proposed exemptions, about 20 percent aim to exempt the home addresses of government officials.