The ability for government officials to INTENTIONALLY violate Florida's Sunshine Laws just became that much easier, courtesy of lawmakers in the House:
A House committee unanimously passed a bill Wednesday that would remove the requirement that government officials who intentionally violate the state's public records law pay attorneys fees when citizens take them to court.
The measure, HB 1021 by Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, would give judges the discretion to determine if government agencies will pay the legal fees of a lawsuit when they are found in violation of the law. It also requires that the a person who intends to file a lawsuit give the public agency notice at least five business days in advance.
So that gives a head's up to any agency that seeks to hide something, and potentially sticks the taxpayer they're hiding from with the bill. Because that's how Sunshine is filtered in Florida.
Public records advocates say this will be tantamount to "gutting" Florida's public records laws by removing any penalty for abusing them.
Rich Templin, lobbyist for the AFL-CIO and a member of the coalition, acknowledged the abuses but said the measure went too far in its attempt to correct them.
"This legislation is basically an atomic bomb to solve a cockroach problem,'' he said. "If we don't want to pay attorneys fees, then don't violate the law, don't keep things secret. The only time attorneys fees are awarded is when the law has been broken."
Republicans in Florida have already weakened our Sunshine Laws, and what a coincidence, since just about every elected official from the governor, to the attorney general, right on down to the legislators making the rules, frequently abuse them.
Follow on Twitter: @BeachPeanuts