Legal Update

Legislative Report (Middle of Week 8)

Session began March 5. Last day for committee meetings was April 23. Session lasts 60 days, concluding on May 3. Here are the bills we are following with the current status:

Public Notice Bills

Public Notices (OPPOSE) HB 1235 by Rep. Fine (R); SB 1676 by Sen. Baxley (R).  These almost identical 41-page bills would allow for publication of advertisements and public notices on “publicly accessible websites and government access channels,” and would end the current system of newspaper notice of various governmental actions and foreclosures.  STATUS: House bill referenced to three committees, passed first by 10-5 and second by 11-7. Bill’s third committee reference removed and placed on House floor calendar.  Bill passed House floor on April 17 on a vote of 68 to 44 (8 missed), largely along party lines (Rs in favor, Ds opposed). Senate bill referenced to three committees but has not been scheduled for a hearing as of this date and we are hopeful that it will not move in the Senate.

Legal and Official Advertisements (OPPOSE) SB 1710 by Sen. Diaz (R). This 5-page bill says local governments may publish legal ads and notices on county/city websites in lieu of Chapter 50 newspaper notices. STATUS: Bill referenced to 3 committees, not moving.

Community Redevelopment Agencies (NEUTRAL) HB 9 by Rep. LaMarca (R); SB 1054 by Sen. Lee (R). The Senate bill as filed fails to keep the newspaper notice requirement for CRA annual report filings. House bill retains the notice. STATUS: House bill passed committees, passed floor on 4/17, in messages to/received by Senate; Senate bill passed committees; on second reading calendar.

Dissolved Corporation Notice (NEUTRAL) SB 892 by Sen. Passidomo (R); HB 1009 Rep. Byrd (R). These bills delete the optional newspaper notice for dissolved corporations. Senate bill has 4 references; House bill 2. STATUS: Senate and House bills amended to retain optional requirement—Senate bill on second reading calendar; House bill on special order calendar.

Sample Ballot Notices (OPPOSE) HB 7101 by State Affairs Committee; SB 7066 by Ethics and Elections Committee. House bill makes newspaper notice of sample ballots optional when mailed to all electors—as was the law up until a few years ago. Senate bill originally lacked this language but now includes it. STATUS: House bill passed its committee of reference, placed on special order calendar; Senate bill passed Rules committee with amendment by Sen. Baxley, which includes House notice language, placed on special order calendar.

Open Government/Records Bills/CAs

Victim Rights Amendment 6 (Marcy’s Law). This is the victim’s right constitutional amendment, modeled on a similar measure in California (known as Marsy’s Law), as well as provisions in several other states, approved in November by 62% of Florida voters. It went into effect January 8. Since being approved, a great deal of confusion has arisen on the amendment’s effect on public records under the Sunshine Law and journalists have encountered difficulty in getting victim information from police. The particular provision causing most of the confusion is paragraph (b)(5), which states that crime victims and their families have the “right” to prevent disclosure of information or records that could be used to locate or harass the victim or the victim’s family. STATUS: We are working with FAF and other groups to explore ways to clarify the measure and hopefully limit its impact on open records laws. If you need a copy of the somewhat helpful Miami Police Dept. memo, please contact Sam.

Victim Rights (NEUTRAL) SB 1426 by Sen. Book (D). This bill specifies rights that a victim may elect to exercise by providing notice to a state attorney or a law enforcement agency; prohibits the questioning of a victim regarding certain sexual conduct; specifies that victims have a right to be informed of their rights; providing for enforcement and protection of a victim’s right to a prompt and final conclusion of a case and any relating proceedings, etc. The bill doesn’t include any language regarding the Amendment 6 right to prevent disclosure of victim location records noted above.  STATUS: referenced to 3 committees; not moving.

 Exemption/Photographs and Videos Depicting Victims of Mass Violence:  SB 186 by Sen. Lee (R) (NEUTRAL); HB 7017 by Oversight, Transparency & Public Management Subcommittee.  Bills contain a public record exemption for photographs, videos or audio recordings that depict the killing of a victim of mass violence. Defines “killing of a victim of mass violence” as “all acts or events that cause or otherwise related to the death of a person, not including the perpetrator, who is killed in an incident in which three or more people, not including the perpetrator, are killed by an intentional act of violence by another person.” Allows access by court order upon a showing of good cause. While bills allow access to the protected records by court order, the problem is the cost of getting a court order. STATUS: Senate bill passed floor and is in messages to House. House bill passed its committee references and is on the floor calendar. FAF worked with Senator Lee who filed an amendment narrowing exemption.

Exemption/Photographs and Videos Depicting the Killing of a Person (OPPOSE): Sen. Bean (R) SB 1146. The exemption for photographs and videos depicting the killing of a person was subject to sunset review during the 2016 Session. Sen. Bradley narrowed the exemption so that it protected only those photographs/videos depicting the killing of a law enforcement officer, which was the original stated purpose of the legislation. SB 1146 reverses Bradley’s good amendment, reverting back to the overbroad exemption. STATUS: Bill referred to 3 committees; FAF requested Senator Bean withdraw his bill; bill not moving. 

Public Records – Civil Actions (SUPPORT) HB 407 by Rep. Rodrigues (R); SB 602 by Sen. Perry (R). There have been situations where an agency responds to a public record requests with a declaratory judgment action, thereby forcing requestors into court to defend their right of access to public records and delaying the process. These bills prohibit agency from responding to requests in such a manner (i.e., by filing a civil action against the requestor). STATUS: Each bill referenced to 3 committees; House bill passed unanimously, in messages to Senate; Senate bill passed first committee, referred to Judiciary committee.