Florida Politics by Mitch Perry
January 5, 2018
One might think that the Tampa Bay Times’ Tim Nickens, as editorial page editor of Tampa Bay’s biggest daily newspaper, might be subjected to tough questions about the paper’s coverage and/or editorial stances.
Indeed, tough questions and comments came Nickens’ way as he spoke before the politically savvy Cafe Con Tampa crowd at the Oxford Exchange Friday morning.
But the questions had to do with Nickens, a member of the First Amendment Foundation’s board, supporting of a piece of legislation introduced for the 2018 Session raised the ire of many gathered at the weekly confab. The Session begins next week.
The First Amendment Foundation is a 33-year-old Tallahassee-based organization to promote the constitutional right for members of the public to oversee government through Florida’s Sunshine public records laws.
SB 1142, from Sarasota Senate Republican Greg Steube, calls for court records to be administratively sealed automatically of nearly anyone found not guilty, acquitted during a trial or has charges dropped or dismissed. Claiming documents could still be obtained from the courthouse where the charges were filed, charges would not show up in a background check through the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
While the First Amendment Foundation strongly opposes the law, Nickens gave several examples of why the state should protect those records.
“If you are hiring a babysitter, you might want to run a criminal background check to see if that person has ever been arrested,” Nickens said. “If you run a business, you’d likely want to run a background check to make sure that this person hasn’t done any crimes or is an upstanding citizen that hasn’t been arrested a number of times for driving while intoxicated.”
A similar provision passed during the 2017 Session — and was sent to Gov. Rick Scott‘s desk — but that portion of the overall bill was dropped from the final legislation. [READ MORE]