Tampa Bay Times
January 27, 2020
Police officers and judges face dangerous criminals every day, which is why their home addresses and telephone numbers are kept private under Florida law. But now Sen. Kelli Stargel wants the Florida Legislature to extend that same secrecy to state legislators – even though the Lakeland Republican cannot cite any credible threat to warrant the privilege. This is an assault on open government by lawmakers who live in a bubble and don’t want to be held accountable by the media or the voters.
While Florida has broad open government laws, the state exempts from disclosure the home address, telephone number and other personal information of a host of public employees in sensitive jobs, from police and firefighters to judges and a range of government inspectors. The intention is to protect these employees from being retaliated against by people they interact with in the course of their duties.
Senate Bill 832 would give lawmakers and Florida Cabinet members the same level of secrecy granted to police, judges and others in law enforcement-related fields. Yet while threats against police officers and judges come with the job, as Lawrence Mower of the Times/Herald Tallahassee bureau reports, lawmakers supporting the bill offered no evidence they deserved those same protections for themselves. Regardless, a Senate committee approved the bill last week by a 4-3 vote along party lines, with Republicans in favor and Democrats opposed. The Senate bill faces two more committees, while a House version has not been heard.