Constitutional rewrite panel's transparency rules would track Legislature's - SaintPetersBlog

Constitutional rewrite panel’s transparency rules would track Legislature’s

Just like the Legislature, any two members of the new Constitution Revision Commission could meet out of the “sunshine,” according to a copy of the panel’s proposed rules.

The draft rules, posted online Monday, say that “all meetings at which Commission business is discussed between more than two members of the Commission shall be open to the public, following the procedure outlined in the Florida Constitution.”

If approved, the commission will follow the constitutional provision governing legislative meetings, which says “all prearranged gatherings, between more than two members of the legislature … shall be reasonably open to the public.”

Another draft rule says “all records of the Commission shall be accessible to the public unless otherwise exempted by law.”

Florida legal legend Sandy D’Alemberte on Monday morning called the draft rules “a good start.”

As early as January, D’Alemberte—who’s been a Democratic lawmaker, Florida State University law school dean and president, and American Bar Association president—had raised concerns whether the commission would elect “to be governed by the Sunshine Law.”

Last week, he penned an op-ed for the Tallahassee Democrat in which he urged commission members to operate in the open.

“Open government is the Florida way and it is important for the Commission to signal from the very beginning that it respects this most important feature of Florida government,” he wrote.

D’Alemberte said he hopes members get properly schooled on openness. He recalled serving on the Miami-Dade Community College Board years ago, and his fellow members were “always calling me, wanting to talk about issues.”

“It took forever to educate people how to operate when you serve on a public body, that you can’t have all these private discussions,” he said.

Updated 12:15 p.m. — The First Amendment Foundation (FAF), an open government watchdog, in a letter to commission chairman Carlos Beruff, had two quibbles with the draft rules.

In the public records section, the organization suggested changing “accessible to the public” to “open to the public” to track with state law.

It also suggested modifying the meetings rule to apply to those of two or more commissioners, saying the “higher standard … applies to every collegial body in Florida except the Legislature.”

“We would expect the CRC to hold itself to the highest standards of transparency, allowing all Floridians to oversee the work of the Commission and hold it accountable for its actions,” said the letter, signed by FAF president Barbara A. Petersen.

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Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.
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