First Amendment Foundation: Bills would make officers-elect subject to open government requirements

FIRST AMENDMENT FOUNDATION
336 E. College Avenue, Suite 101 Tallahassee, FL  32301-1554
(800) 337-3518 or (850) 222-3518

LEGISLATIVE ALERT

26 January 2012

We’re still sing-sing-singing along on HB 1305 and SB 1464!

A couple of weeks ago, we sent out an ALERT on these two VERY GOOD bills sponsored by Representative Janet Adkins (HB 1305) and Senator Don Gaetz (SB 1464).

In short, this legislation creates s. 119.035, F.S., requiring officers-elect, upon election to office, to:
1) Adopt and implement reasonable measures to ensure compliance with the public records law;
2) Follow public record retention policies and procedures of the office to which he/she was elected;
3) Ensure that transition emails be preserved so that the public can have access; and
4) Require the officer elect to turn over all transition records to the records manager in the office to which he/she was elected.

The legislation also amends the sunshine law, s. 286.011, F.S., to make it crystal clear that officers-elect are subject to open meetings requirements.

A Little History:  In 1973, the 3d District Court of Appeal held that members-elect of boards or commissions are subject to the Sunshine Law.  [Hough v. Stembridge, 278 So.2d 288]

Now, it would be a bit absurd to say an officer-elect is subject to the open meetings law and not the public records law, thus we have extrapolated from the 3d DCA decision that officers-elect are also subject to the access requirements of chapter 119, the public records law.  So, for the past 40 years, those elected to office have been subject to Florida’s open government laws from the moment the election is certified and these two bills are simply CLARFIYING current case law.

Jump forward to 2011:  Shortly after Governor Scott took office, a number of news reporters made public records request for the email correspondence of members of the Governor’s transition team. The Team had contracted with a private vendor to provide email services and that vendor had deleted all transition team emails shortly after Governor Scott took office.

[NOTE:  Just because the emails have been deleted doesn’t mean they’re gone for good, and the Governor’s staff is working diligently to recover the emails, and to date has made good progress. We’ll have more information on this project a little later.]

In an attempt to make sure that this doesn’t happen again with future governors and other officers-elect, Governor Scott and his staff have proposed legislation that addresses the issues of access and retention of what are clearly public records and . . .

VOILA!
HB 1305 and SB 1464 were introduced.

HB 1305 passed unanimously out of the H. Government Operations Subcommittee yesterday and is now in H. Government Appropriations Subcommittee. There will be one more stop before going to the House floor.

SB 1464 is scheduled for consideration by the S. Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee this afternoon; if it passes, there will be one more committee hearing before going to the full Senate.

BUT some are sounding a SOUR note and now these bills need YOUR help if they are to get to the Governor’s desk!

Even though we’re told that this good-government legislation is on the Governor’s priority list, I’m hearing rumors of push-back from cities and counties.

WHY?

As we said, officers-elect have been subject to our open government laws for the past 40 years and these bills simply codify good case law.
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So please help Governor Scott and the bill sponsors continue to sing the SUNSHINE SONG
by voicing your support for this good-government legislation.

Governor Rick Scott: 850/488-7146 or email Rick.Scott@eog.myflorida.com

Representative Janet Adkins:  850/488-6920 or email janet.adkins@myfloridahouse.gov

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