First Amendment Foundation Challenges Sunshine Law Exemption

Apr 28, 2017

Florida lawmakers are considering letting local officials meet one on one, outside of the public eye. But a first amendment advocate says the change could encourage corruption.

Credit Joe Gratz via Flickr

Florida’s sunshine laws require government meetings to be noticed and open to the public. But some lawmakers want to let local officials meet one on one. They wouldn’t be able to take votes or discuss publicly funded projects. But that doesn’t satisfy Barbara Petersen with the First Amendment Foundation.                    

“There’s a reason we call public officials, public servants. They work for us. And like any good employer we should be keeping an eye on what our public servants are doing for us on our behalf,” Petersen said.

Lawmakers say government would be more effective and efficient if officials could hash out policy with their colleagues. But Petersen says it’s not worth the risk of abuse.

“It obliterates our opportunity for oversight. And it obliterates our opportunity to hold our elected officials accountable. And it invites just monstrous mischief,” Petersen said.

The bill is ready for a floor vote in the House, but it’s stalling in the Senate.