Miami Herald sues county for records disclosing location of Zika mosquitoes

The Miami Herald filed suit Friday against Miami-Dade County seeking to force the county to disclose records showing the locations where mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus have been trapped.

Miami Beach residents need to know where the mosquitoes have been found so they can intelligently debate whether spraying a controversial insecticide over “the entirety of a 1.5 square mile densely populated area” is justified, the lawsuit said, asking for a quick hearing in Miami-Dade County Circuit Court.


Florida Supreme Court: Board must pay in public records case

Florida government agencies that lose lawsuits filed by people seeking access to public records will have to pay plaintiffs’ attorney fees, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday in a Jacksonville-based case.

And it doesn’t matter if the agency didn’t know it was breaking Florida’s public records laws when it denied or limited access to records, the court ruled.


Reporters eye access to text messages during Sunshine Week

When Florida’s public records law was approved 40 some years ago, people were still using typewriters and rotary dial telephones.

If you wanted a public record, you got a piece of paper or maybe lots of pieces of paper. Technology has changed all of that and has presented a challenge for members of the public who want to know what their government officials are up to and local governments that want to avoid violating the law.


Opinion: Florida lawmakers continue to chip away at open government

The Ted Nugent Relief Act — a proposal to keep information on hunting and fishing licenses secret — is dead.

So is another bill that would have kept certain data about voters secret from the general public while still making it available to candidates, political parties and PACs.

And an attempt to undo access to public information in Florida as we know it was neutralized so that it gained the acceptance of the First Amendment Foundation.


Florida Senate passes compromise on records suits

In a unanimous vote, the Senate on Wednesday passed a compromise version of what started as the session’s most contentious bill involving public records exemptions.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah, would exempt agencies sued for public records violations from absorbing attorney fees if a judge determined a complainant was intentionally harassing or forcing a violation against that agency.


Meet the woman fighting behind the scenes to defend open government in Florida

Barbara Petersen has been fighting back efforts to make Florida’s government less transparent for more than 20 years. There haven’t been many battles more consequential than the one she’s waging right now.

Over the last few years, there have been reports about a handful of people or firms using the state’s strong public records law in gotcha-style stings, essentially to extract legal fees from unwitting violators. Predictably, that led to demands to change the law.


[Op-ed] Protect Floridians’ right to know: Where we stand

The art of compromise seems to have died in Washington, D.C. Fortunately, it still has a pulse in Tallahassee.

This week the Florida Senate sponsor of one of the most pernicious bills in the current legislative session agreed to some positive changes. The amended bill isn't perfect, but it's greatly improved. 

Now the House needs to follow suit.


A First Amendment fight in Florida

The First Amendment Foundation and others have met with lawmakers here to discuss revisions to a Senate bill that would let a judge decide whether to award attorney fees against an agency involved in a lawsuit regarding an open-records law violation.

But while several free-speech groups told the Senate Judiciary Committee this week that they view some recent changes to SB 1220 as progress, they are still not convinced that the bill does not impede on Floridians’ constitutional right to public information.


Advocates decry Florida bill ending automatic fees for public records violations

Local government leaders in Florida are battling with open-government advocates over legislation that would leave it up to a judge to award attorney’s fees in public-records cases.

The bill (SB 1220) passed through a Senate panel Tuesday by a unanimous 3-0 vote, and the House version of the bill (HB 1021) won a committee’s approval on Monday.