Newsletter from the Florida First Amendment Foundation: In this issue: Barbara Petersen: More sunshine law exemptions, but also some progress – our 2013 legislative session final report, A full agenda at this year's freedom of information summit, State legislator Mike Fasano wins 2012 Pete Weitzel/Friend of the First Amendment Award, First Amendment Foundation and SPJ-South Florida sponsor series of columns, Your Right to Know – in the news.
Barbara Petersen: More sunshine law exemptions, but also some progress – our 2013 legislative session final report
The 2013 legislative session was fairly typical: The FAF had about 120 open government bills on its tracking list, which is about average, and the rapid pace at which many of those bills moved through committee with little opposition was predictable. A dozen new exemptions were created this year – the highest number of new exemptions since 2007, when the legislature passed 14 new exemptions – bringing the total number of exceptions to our constitutional right of access to the records and meetings of our government to well over 1,000. (In contrast, there were approximately 250 exemptions in 1985.)
Many of the new exemptions are relatively minor. Of the bills that passed, only one – HB 1075 – received any significant opposition, passing the House by a vote of 85/30, just over the two-thirds vote required by Florida's constitution. That bill creates a public record exemption for records related to the investigation of complaints of employee misconduct. Like other, similar exemptions for investigative records, HB 1075 stipulates that the investigative records are subject to disclosure when the investigation is complete, which is what made the House opposition to the bill a bit surprising. Other exemptions with far broader impact – CS/HB 249, for example, creating an exemption for the email addresses of registered voters – passed both chambers with only two "No" votes.
A full agenda at this year's freedom of information summit
Shoestring budgets. Lobbying. And, of course, the finer points – and critical importance – of open government. The National Freedom of Information Coalition's annual FOI Summit featured a wide variety of topics, a deep pool of expertise and an expansive spectrum of advice.
Held in New Orleans on May 17 and 18, the NFOIC's summit offered tips on running and maintaining open government organizations during an era of tight budget restraints; the advantages of subtle lobbying efforts; the importance of exploiting every fundraising opportunity; keys to developing user-friendly websites; and many other topics.
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