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2013 Florida Legislative Summary

Tallahassee – The following is a summary of bills pertaining to public records and open meetings introduced during the 2013 legislative session.  Chief sponsors of the bills are indicated in italics.  Copies of the legislation in full are available at the Florida Legislature’s website (www.leg.state.fl.us). SB = Senate Bill; HB = House Bill; CS = Committee Substitute.

The following is a summary of the 12 Public Records and Open Meetings Law exemptions enacted in 2013. However, one was vetoed by Gov. Scott.

CS/SB 4 Ethics – Written Referrals: Creates a public records exemption for written referrals and related records held by the Ethics Commission, the Governor, FDLE, or state attorneys as well as records relating to preliminary investigations of such referrals held by the Commission; also creates an exemption from public meeting requirements for portions of Commission proceedings at which referrals are discussed or acted upon, stipulating that the exemptions apply until the complaint is dismissed as legally insufficient, the subject of the referral requests that the records be made public, the Commission determines it will not investigate the referral, or when probable cause is determined.  S. Ethics and Election Subcommittee.  Approved by Gov. Scott May15, 2013.

CS/HB 249 Voter Email Address: Exempts from public records requirements the email addresses of voter registration applicants or voters held by an agency, for the purpose of voter registration.  Rep. Bryan Nelson (R-Apopka). Vetoed by Gov. Scott June 14, 2013.

CS/HB 361 Criminal Justice Commissions: Creates a new exemption from public meetings requirements for portions of a duly constituted criminal justice commission meeting during which commissioners discuss active criminal intelligence or active investigative information if the information is being considered by the commission or may foreseeably come before the commission; defines “duly constituted criminal justice commission” as “an advisory commission created by municipal or county ordinance whose membership is comprised of individuals from the private sector and the public sector and whose purpose is to examine local criminal justice issues.”  Rep. Dave Kerner (D-Palm Springs). Approved by Gov. Scott June 14, 2013.

CS/HB 649 Electric Utility – Proprietary Business Information: Creates an exemption from Public Records Law for proprietary confidential business information held by an electric utility in conjunction with the utility’s due diligence review of an electric project or a project to improve the delivery, cost, or diversification of fuel or renewable energy resources, defining “proprietary confidential business information” as information provided to an electric utility by an entity which is private because disclosure of the information would cause harm to the entity’s business operations and which has not otherwise been disclosed; stipulates that all proprietary confidential business information must be retained for one year upon completion of the due diligence review and the electric utility has decided whether to participate in the project.  Rep. W. Travis Cummings (R-Orange Park).  Approved by Gov. Scott June 7, 2013.

CS/HB 731 Names of Spouses and Children: Exempts from public records requirements the names of spouses and children of active or former law enforcement personnel, and correctional probation officers, state attorneys, assistant state attorneys, statewide prosecutors and assistant statewide prosecutors, as well as names of spouses and children of certain personnel of the Department of Children and Families, Department of Health and the Department of Revenue.  Rep. Dave Kerner (D-Palm Springs).  Presented to Gov. Scott June 17, 2013.

CS/HB 1075 Complaints of Employee Misconduct: Creates an new exemption from Public Records Law for a complaint of misconduct filed with an agency against an agency employee as well as for all information obtained by the agency while investigating the complaint, extending until the investigation ceases to be active or until the agency provides the employee with written notice of the investigation’s conclusion.  Rep. Ricardo Rangel (D-Kissimmee).  Presented to Gov. Scott June 17, 2013.

CS/HB 1085 Natural Gas Storage – Proprietary Business Information: Creates an exemption from Public Records Law for proprietary business information held by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) if the information was provided in an application for a natural gas storage facility permit to inject into or recover gas from a storage reservoir; defines “proprietary business information” as information that is owned or controlled by the applicant; is intended to be private and is treated by the applicant as private because disclosure would harm the applicant’s business operations; has not been disclosed except under certain circumstances, such as required by law; and is not publicly available or otherwise readily ascertainable; allows the department to disclose the information under certain conditions.  Rep. Dane Eagle (R-Cape Coral).  Approved by Gov. Scott June 14 2013.

HB 1297 False Claims Act Investigations: Creates a new exemption for complaints and information held by the Department of Legal Affairs during an investigation of a potential violation related to false claims against the state under the False Claims Act, extending the exemption until the investigation is complete or ceases to be active. Rep. Dana Young (R-Tampa). Approved by Gov. Scott June 3, 2013.

CS/HB 1327 Criminal History – Human Trafficking Victims: Exempts from public records requirements the criminal history records of victims of human trafficking if those records have been expunged by a court order, allowing access to such records only under certain specified conditions.  Rep. Ross Spano (R- Riverview).  Approved by Gov. Scott May 30, 2013.

SB 1850 Citizens Property Insurance – Proprietary Business Information:  Creates an exemption from public records requirements for proprietary business information provided by an insurer to Citizen Property Insurance Corporation’s clearinghouse and related to identifying and selecting risks, stipulating access to such records should only be provided under certain circumstances; defines “proprietary business information” as information owned or controlled by an insurer which is identified by the insurer as proprietary and is treated by the insurer as private in that the disclosure of the information would cause harm to the insurer’s operations and has not been disclosed unless otherwise required, such as by court order or statute; and is not otherwise publicly available or readily ascertainable.  S. Banking and Insurance Committee.  Approved by Gov. Scott May 29, 2013.

HB 7089 School Lunch Program: Exempts from public records requirements the personal identifying information of a school food and nutrition service program applicant or participant held by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Department of Children and Families, or the Department of Education.  H. Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee. Approved by Gov. Scott June 14, 2013.  

CS/HB 7135 Financial Regulation Payments: Creates a public record exemption for payment transaction information, contained in the database held by the Office of Financial Regulation, that identifies a licensee, payor, payee, or conductor.  H. Insurance and Banking Subcommittee.  Approved by Gov. Scott June 7, 2013.  

The following 10 open government bills were passed in 2013 but do not create exemptions. One was vetoed by Gov. Scott.

CS/SB 2 Ethics – Public Records Training/Complaint Disclosure: Requires “constitutional officers” such as the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, the Attorney General, the Chief Financial Officer, the Commissioner of Agriculture, state attorneys, public defenders, sheriffs, tax collectors, property appraisers, supervisors of elections, clerks of the circuit court, county commissioners, district school board members, and superintendents of schools to receive mandatory annual training in open records and open meeting law; requires the Ethics Commission to make financial disclosure forms available through a searchable public website; amends Public Records Law to prevent the disclosure of an ethics complaint or referral within 30 days of an election, unless the complaint or referral is based on personal information or information other than hearsay.  S. Ethics and Elections Subcommittee.  Approved by Gov. Scott May 1, 2013.

CS/SB 50 Public Meetings/Right to Speak: Requires that a member of the public be given a reasonable opportunity to be heard by a board or commission prior to it taking action on a item before the board or commission, subject to reasonable conduct rules, stipulating that the right to speak would not apply to certain situations, such as an official act related to an emergency situation, a ministerial act, any meeting exempt from Open Meetings Law, and quasi-judicial meetings; defines “board or commission” as a board or commission of any state agency or authority of a county, municipality, or political subdivision; states that reasonable attorneys fees will be assigned if a court finds an agency has violated this right, but that an action of the board will not be void upon finding of a violation.  Sen. Joe Negron (R-Palm City).  Presented to Gov. Scott June 14, 2013.

CS/HB 85 Public-Private Partnerships: Creates the Public Facilities and Infrastructure Act Guidelines Task Force to recommend guidelines for the Legislature to consider in the creation of a uniform process for establishing public-private partnerships; provides for the study current exemptions from public records and public meetings requirements by the Task Force and evaluation of whether changes to existing law are necessary or if new exemptions should be created to maintain the confidentiality of financial and proprietary information received as part of an unsolicited bid proposal for a public private-partnership.  Rep. Greg Steube (R-Sarasota).  Presented to Gov. Scott June 17, 2013.

CS/SB 406 Economic Development Program Evaluation: Requires the Office of Economic Development (OED) to maintain a website, searchable and open to the public, for the purpose of posting information on Economic Development Program Evaluation and the Economic Incentive Program Evaluation projects; requires OED to publish contracts or agreements and reports of findings and recommendations regarding the business’s failure to complete a tax refund agreement, subject to a qualified target industry business refund program.  Sen. Andy Gardiner (R-Orlando).  Approved by Gov. Scott May 20, 2013.

CS/SB 556 Clerks of Court/Records: Implements specific requirements for the storage of papers and electronic filings; authorizes a clerk of the court to provide access to requested public records in an electronic format under certain conditions; requires the clerk to provide access to requested public records without charge to certain persons, including a state attorney or a public defender.  Sen. Jeremy Ring (D-Margate).  Approved by Gov. Scott June 5, 2013.

CS/SB 674 Animal Shelter Records: Requires public or private animal shelters, humane organizations, or animal control agencies to create and maintain records relating to the intake and disposition of animals; provides that the records for three preceding years be made publicly available for inspection, pursuant to Public Records Law; sets a maximum fee for copies of such records.  Sen. Bill Montford (D-Tallahassee).  Approved by Gov. Scott April 24, 2013.

HB 725 Exemption/Child Abuse Death Review Committees: Eliminates requirements that closed portions of a State Children Abuse Death Review Committee meeting or a local committee at which specified identifying information is discussed be recorded, that no portion of such closed meeting be off record and that recording be maintained by state committee or local committee.  Rep. Gayle Harrell (R-Port St. Lucie).  Vetoed by Gov. Scott June 12, 2013.

CS/HB 1309 Procurement of Commodities and Contractual Services: Requires all public agency contracts for services include certain provisions stipulating the public agency will enforce contract provisions if the contractor does not comply with Public Records Law; requires state agencies to designate a grants manager for each agreement and the Chief Financial Officer to perform audits of the agreements.  H. Government Operations Subcommittee.  Approved by Gov. Scott June 7, 2013.

HB 5401 Transparency in State Contracting: Requires the Executive Office of the Governor (EOG) to create and maintain a website providing access to information relating to the approved operating budget for each branch of state government and all state agencies; and to create and maintain a website providing information relating to fiscal planning for the state; requires the Department of Management Services (DMS) to create and maintain a website providing current information relating to employees or officers of a state agency, a state university, or the State Board of Administration; requires the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) to create and maintain a contract tracking system available to the public through a secure website, stipulating that state agencies must post specified information to the tracking system within 30 days of executing a contract; provides requirements and procedures for redacting confidential information or information that is exempt from disclosure; creates the User Experience Task Force to develop and recommend a design for consolidating existing state-managed transparency websites into a single website.  H. Government Operations Subcommittee.  Approved by Gov. Scott May 20, 2013.

CS/HB 7007 Economic Development: Establishes the Economic Development Programs Evaluation, revising the date by which the Department Economic Opportunity must submit a report on the climate of business and economic development throughout the state and requiring the DEO to publish specific information on its website related to the state’s investment in economic development programs.  Amends statute to create a second-degree misdemeanor penalty for any person who receives exempt unemployment compensation information.  H. Economic Development and Tourism Subcommittee.  Approved by Gov. Scott May 17, 2013.

The following five exemptions were re-enacted in 2013 under the Open Government Sunset Review Act (OGSR), which requires review of exemptions every five years.

SB 452 Organ and Tissue Registry – Donor Information: Reenacts, with minor change, the public records exemption protecting organ and tissue donor identities. S. Health Policy Committee.  Approved by Gov. Scott May 30, 2013.  

CS/SB 1768 Personal Information – Paratransit Services: Reenacts the public records exemptions for personal identifying information of paratransit services recipients or applicants. S. Transportation Committee.  Approved by Gov. Scott May 30, 2013. 

HB 7079 Agency Employees – Victims of Domestic Violence or Sexual Violence: Reenacts, with minor revision, the public records exemption for personal identifying information contained in records submitted to the agency by an agency employee documenting acts of domestic or sexual violence. H. Government Operations Subcommittee.  Approved by Gov. Scott June 14, 2013.

HB 7143 Donors – Department of Veterans Affairs:  Saves from scheduled repeal the public records exemption for the identity of donors or prospective donors to the Department of Veterans Affairs direct support organization; also exempts those portions of meetings at which the donor’s identity is discussed. H. Government Operations Subcommittee.  Approved by Gov. Scott May 30, 2013. 

HB 7145 Investigations – Employment Discrimination Complaints:  Reenacts, with minor change, an exemption form Public Records Law for all agency employment discrimination complaints and records until a finding regarding probable cause is made, the complaint investigation becomes inactive or becomes part of the official record of a hearing or court proceeding; allows access to such complaints or records under certain circumstances.  H. Government Operations Subcommittee.  Approved by Gov. Scott June 14, 2013.

Source: First Amendment Foundation, http://www.flsenate.gov and http://www.myfloridahouse.gov