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House Bill Would Allow Government Officials to Meet Behind Closed Doors

April 28th, 2017 by Jake Stofan
Florida has been hailed for having the best open government laws in the country, but advocates fear legislation moving through the state Capitol Will shut the door on that openness.
Public officials have been prohibited from meeting secrecy to discuss public business since 1968., but House Bill 843 would end the prohibition.
Sponsor Byron Donalds  says officials are already violating the law, so it should be changed.
“The real question is, are we going to criminalize all elected officials and say you are barred from doing what normal people do in the course of business,” said Donalds.
Each year though more and more exemptions to the States Sunshine Law are passed.
“So he wants to take what it an unlawful act and make it lawful? That doesn’t mean it’s right,” said Barbara Petersen, President of the First Amendment Foundation.
Both sides agree its local communities would be most affected by the bill, the question is whether it will be a positive or negative effect.
“Sometimes people need to sit down and think about it some more before they cast that vote,” said Donalds.
Representative Kristin Jacobs doesn’t think it’s necessary.
“I spent sixteen years in local government solving problems on the dais in the open and haven’t had any struggles doing it,” said Jacobs.
The bill limits what officials can discuss in private, some question how that would be enforced.
“For example it says that you can’t meet privately in an attempt to circumvent the law, but how would we know because there would be no record of that private meeting,” said Petersen.
In the 50 years Florida had required openness,  more than one thousand exemptions have been enacted.
Advocates say this would be the most devastating.
The bill is expected to be back on the House Floor, Monday.

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