BRADENTON – Among the reforms in SB 1648, are provisions that would prevent government agencies from charging excessive fees for public records, would clarify that agencies cannot ask that record requests be submitted in writing and create requirements for the training of public employees on public-record law. It passed 39-0 in the Senate, but its companion, HB 1151, remains stalled in the Florida House.
The bill also adds transparency to government entities that use taxpayer money to pay membership fees in private groups and associations, by requiring that the financial, business and membership information which pertains to the government entity is available for public inspection along with any records the association distributes to its members.
Barbara Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation, has called the legislation the most significant public record law reforms in the state in the last 20 years.
Supporters of the bill have noted that the legislature has already passed legislation this session to seal certain “stand your ground” court records and say that at a time when so many other legislative changes are making it harder for the public to monitor their governments, passing this legislation is paramount to ensuring the intent of Florida's government in the sunshine laws.
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