Sunshine law should shine more brightly

April 2, 2014 

Public records only remain public when the public keeps demanding they are open to the public. How else would citizens hold government accountable?

Florida is blessed with a law that demands a great deal of transparency. The Sunshine in the Government Law continues to be model for other states. Year after year, though, legislators attempt to add exemptions so certain actions are not illegal.

This year is an exception. Thanks to Senate President Don Gaetz, who made open government a high priority, we now have legislation forging ahead that empowers citizens with stronger rights to force public officials to reveal documents.

One of the key changes is changing the cost of a public records request -- so government officals cannot excessive fees and thwart access to public records.

Under SB 1648, whatever monetary bill is associated with fulfilling a public records request would be limited to the cost of the lowest paid person capable of performing that task.

That's a far more reasonable charge than what some entitites were charging -- to basically discourage the public from accessing their rights to records. That has been a roadblock as agencies bloated bills and blamed the amount on uncontestable personnel costs.

Other provisions in the Senate bill are just as vital, even more so. One creates a requirement that agency employees who must deal with pubic information requests be trained in the open-records law. That should be on the books now.

Another provision eliminates the stipulation that public record requests be made in writing under certain circumstances -- only if citing statutory citation.

This should pass as is, in both chambers.

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