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Sunshine Laws

‘Lack of transparency’ causes calls for Rick Scott budget veto

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Both citing a “lack of transparency,” the heads of the League of Women Voters of Florida and the First Amendment Foundation are calling for Gov. Rick Scott to veto the just-passed state budget for 2017-18. But with the House of Representatives passing the budget 98-14 and the Senate approving 34-4 on Monday, there are enough votes there to override a veto, assuming none change. League President Pamela S. Goodman and FAF President Barbara A. Petersen alerted their members in separate emails on Tuesday.…

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Lawmakers approve attorney fee tweak to public record law

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Lawmakers on Thursday unanimously passed a compromise measure on winners of public records lawsuits collecting attorney fees, sending the bill to Gov. Rick Scott. The House passed the Senate bill (SB 80) on a 115-0 vote. The legislation requires judges to award attorney fees if they find an agency broke the public records law and a “requestor” gave five days’ notice before filing suit. Most importantly, a judge must determine if a request was for an “improper purpose,” such as intentionally forcing…

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HART, trucking company face off over public records for evidence in 2015 crash

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A 2015 accident between a tractor-trailer and a Hillsborough County bus has set off a legal dispute over the right to access public records. As part of the disagreement, the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority Agency is claiming footage shot inside the bus during the crash, necessary to help exonerate the owner of the tractor-trailer, is confidential and cannot be released. ArcBest is an Arkansas-based publicly traded transportation logistics company, with revenues of $2.7-billion in fiscal year 2016. On Sept. 2,…

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Public records bill barely gets out of first committee

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A bill that would give judges discretion to award attorney fees in public records lawsuits squeaked out of its first review panel Tuesday. The Senate’s Governmental Oversight and Accountability cleared the bill (SB 80) by a 4-3 vote. It goes next to the Community Affairs Committee. The measure changes the word “shall” to “may” regarding courts awarding legal fees when an “agency (has) unlawfully refused to permit a public record … to be inspected or copied.” It would also require a “complainant (to) provide…

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Bob Rommel files bill to shield college presidential searches from Sunshine Laws

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A new bill introduced by state Rep. Bob Rommel would keep secret the identities of candidates for the presidencies and other top executive positions at Florida’s state colleges and universities through most of the selection process. House Bill 351, introduced by the Naples Republican Monday, would create exemptions in Florida’s open records and open meetings laws. The proposal seeks to keep secret “personal identifying information” of applicants for president, provost, or dean of a state university or a Florida College…

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Florida House sues over Visit Florida-Pitbull deal documents

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Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran sued PDR Productions Inc. Tuesday for a judge’s permission to publicly release documents involved in the Visit Florida deal used to hire Miami rapper Pitbull to promote Florida tourism. At issue is Corcoran’s concern that Visit Florida deals — done increasingly in secret — may require deeper scrutiny in how it’s spending state money. He wants the Florida House of Representatives Appropriations Committee to hold hearings, starting with a look at the PDR contract. But Visit Florida turned over…

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Bill changing single word of public records rules could have “disastrous” effect on Sunshine Laws

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Florida Sunshine Laws, which dictate transparency in government, could be significantly threatened — all with the change of a single word. As reported by Noah Pransky of WTSP, a new bill by Sarasota Republican State Rep. Greg Steube is generating concern among open government advocates, who see it as “legislators trying to further erode citizens’ only avenue” of accessing public records. The proposals (HB 1021 and SB 1220), would give judges the discretion to award attorney’s fees in public records…

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