Tallahassee Democrat by Bill Cotterell
December 4, 2019
The concept of Florida’s “Government in the Sunshine” law is simple.
When public officials entrusted with levying our taxes and spending public money have a meeting, we get to watch them work. The written records of those meetings are available to the citizens whose lives are affected by their decisions.
Oh, of course, there must be some exemptions, even secrecy. You can’t expect names of drug informants to be published, and nobody needs to see personal medical records, stuff like that.
About a half-century ago, Florida legislators surprised everybody by adopting the presumption that meetings and information should be open. There followed a spate of financial disclosure and ethics laws, as well as campaign-finance requirements, that made Florida a leader in open government.
But it’s not the nature of government to leave things alone. Once they get a good law, legislators feel an urge to improve it — to trim a little here, expand a little there — and somehow, the changes usually work to the convenience or advantage of the officeholders.
Consider, for instance, a bill filed last month by Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland. Senate Bill 832 would exempt from the public record home addresses and phone numbers of the governor and Cabinet, and members of the House and Senate.