TALLAHASSEE — State Sen. Greg Steube (R-Sarasota) gave action to the old adage “If at first you don’t succeed…” when he refiled Senate Bill 80 on Nov. 30.
by Florida Record’s Noell Wolfgram Evans
December 22, 2016
SB 80 is intended to provide greater discretion to judges, who preside over public-records cases, on the amounts and types of attorney’s fees that can be awarded. The version of SB 80 Steube filed was a revised version of one he filed in the last legislative session, when he was a state representative. That version of the bill passed the Senate, but stalled in the House.
According to www.floridapolitics.com, the current law states that judges “shall award attorney’s fees” in these cases. SB 80 makes a key change to the current legislation by amending the current language to “may award attorney’s fees.”
Organizations like the Florida League of Cities have advocated for providing judges with this decision-making power, believing that the change will refocus the number of lawsuits against public officials. With the elimination of guaranteed fees for attorneys, people may not be as quick to file suit against a public official when an honest, clerical mistake has been made.
On the other side of the argument are organizations like the First Amendment Foundation, which argue that passage of the bill may have negative consequences, such as in cases that involve local governments that purposefully refuse to honor public-records requests. [READ MORE]