From temporarily shielding the identities of murder witnesses to permanently sealing millions of criminal and arrest records, state lawmakers did more this spring than they have in all but one of the past 22 years to chip away at Floridians’ constitutional guarantees to access government records and observe meetings of their elected officials.
The Legislature passed 17 new provisions — and reauthorized six others — that create carve-outs in the state’s Sunshine Law, according to a tally by the First Amendment Foundation, a non-profit organization that advocates for transparency in government and has annually tracked Sunshine-related legislation.
The number of exemptions this year is the second-most since 1995 — five fewer than the record 22 exemptions lawmakers passed in 2014, said Barbara Petersen, president of the foundation, of which the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times are members.
“Every exemption that’s created is an exception to the Florida Constitution,” Petersen said, calling the trend “very disturbing.”
Photo credit: House Speaker Richard Corcoran, left, R-Land O'Lakes, and Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, speak to the media after the 2017 legislative session ended Monday night May 8, 2017 at the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)