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Fla. Open-Government Group Blasts Bill That Would Hide Financial Records

A nonprofit organization that tries to keep Florida government transparent and accountable is releasing its watch list of the “best” and “worst” bills filed so far for this legislative session. The First Amendment Foundation announced its list at the Florida Capitol on Wednesday.

The Foundation’s "worst of the worst" is a bill filed by Rep. Holly Raschein (R-Key Largo). The bill would exempt financial records of companies that submit bids for state contracts because, it says, such openness gives an unfair advantage to competing firms.

But Foundation president Barbara Peterson said, public interest is more important than business interests.

“We want to make sure that government is entering into contracts with financially sound companies, and we would not have the opportunity to make that determination independently if these records are exempt from public disclosure," she said.

Current law exempts financial records of companies who want to pre-qualify to submit bids, but the bill would expand that exemption to all vendors under all circumstances.

Peterson also criticized a bill, H.B. 249, that would exempt voters’ e-mail addresses from public record.