4 areas need improvement, First Amendment chief says

From Naples Daily News:

Barbara Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation, recently sat down with the Daily News editorial board to outline four areas needing improvement in Florida’s Sunshine Laws. She is pushing to have changes made in the coming years and will discuss them further at a free summit March 16 at St. Petersburg College.

Right to Speak

The right to speak refers to the public’s right to voice opinions during public meetings before a government body takes action.

Recent instances where this right was not afforded prompted the drafting a bill last year that made it an explicit part of each public meeting, but the bill did not pass.

Now Florida Rep. Ray Rodrigues of Estero is the backer of House Bill 23, a modified version of the original bill in its final committee hearing stages.

“Most public governments have continued to provide the opportunity for comment, but until we codify this they don’t have to require it,” Rodrigues said. Both Petersen and Rodrigues said they are confident the bill will pass this year.

“I haven’t found anyone who doesn’t believe that government shouldn’t ignore tax payers,” Rodrigues said.

Petersen said right-to-speak issues are the top complaint received on the First Amendment Foundation’s hotline.

Please continue to read the article on the Naples Daily News about the three other areas that need improvement. 

Also see an editorial from the Naples Daily News, Speaking frankly about open records and sunshine, a previous blog post, Naples officials receive kudos for reconsidering public records changes, and an interview with Barbara Petersen at TheLedger.com.

The Florida First Amendment Foundation is a member of NFOIC. –eds