Daytona Beach News Journal Editorial
June 28, 2017
Nobody covered themselves in glory.When it comes to their commitment to maintaining sunshine in state government, most Florida lawmakers are in the dark.
That’s the conclusion of the “Sunshine Scorecard,” a rating of every state representative’s and senator’s performance on open-government issues during the 2017 legislative session. The lawmakers received a letter grade from the Florida Society of News Editors based on information supplied by Florida’s First Amendment Foundation, primarily their sponsorship and votes on key bills regarding exemptions in open records and meetings laws. (Full disclosure: News-Journal Editor Pat Rice is a member of the foundation’s board of trustees).
These measures included allowing members of public boards to meet in private; keeping secret the names of candidates for university and college presidents until the very end of the search process; and sealing the criminal records of people charged with felonies and misdemeanors if no charges were filed, if all charges were dismissed before trial, or if the person charged was acquitted.
The grades were discouraging, albeit not surprising, given how the Legislature has continuously eroded the public’s right to know. Just in 2017, the Legislature created 26 exemptions and expanded an existing one, then instituted one more exemption during its special session. If Gov. Rick Scott approves all of the 28 new exemptions, the total would be 1,150. Talk about death by a thousand cuts.
Nobody earned an A. The scorecard handed out nine B’s, 71 C’s, 77 D’s and three F’s (under the scoring system, a perfectly neutral legislator would receive a C). Legislators representing Volusia and Flagler counties mirrored that distribution. In fact, it speaks volumes that Sen. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, received the local delegation’s highest grade, a C — because she missed every vote in Tallahassee while recuperating at home from cancer treatments. [READ MORE]