Here’s some good news out of Tallahassee:
Last week, Florida Gov. Rick Scott made it easier for the public to obtain some of his email correspondence. Called “Project Sunburst,” the initiative will allow Florida citizens to simply log into their home computers to check out the emails of the governor and his 11 top staff members. That group, according to the Tampa Bay Times, accounts for 80 percent of such public records requests.
This is good news from a governor who started off his term with a rocky relationship with the state’s Sunshine Law. It took Scott several months, for example, to start using email, since it is subject to the Sunshine Laws, and during his transition some documents that should have been archived were destroyed, with the governor saying that an outside company had been responsible.
Florida’s Sunshine Law is one of the most progressive in the nation and comparatively, it serves citizens well. But even with the law, it can take some time to access public records. A person would have to request the record, then await a response.
The Sunburst initiative plans to have the emails available online within 24 hours. All one needs to do is log in to flgov.com/sunburst and use “sunburst” as both the username and the password.
This is an excellent first step and we hope the state and the governor go further. Currently, Sunburst covers only emails, not Twitter, Facebook, or text conversations, although they are also covered by the state’s Sunshine Law (and can be obtained by making a records request). Hopefully, that’s not far down the road.
However, this is an important first step and a very positive one for open government. It’s good to see the governor recognize not only the law, but also the importance of people seeing records much more quickly than they can now.