By Grant Stern
shared this story
from PINAC News.
Florida’s famous Sunshine Law is under attack in the state legislature today as a state House Committee has already voted to eliminate the provision that guarantees government agencies must pay citizens’ attorney fees when public records are illegally withheld.
Hialeah Senator Rene Garcia proposed the Senate Bill, and maintains offices in both his district – which can be reached by phone at (305) 364-3100 to leave comment -and another office in Florida’s capitol of Tallahassee which can be reached at (850) 487-5038 while the legislature is in session as it is right now. Emails to the legislature can be sent through Garcia’s official page of office as well.
Please call him and ask him what he has to hide.
The senator’s proposed changes make awarding attorney fees discretionary for judges when plaintiffs prevail in public records lawsuits that prove that government agencies have violated the law.
Today, judges must order the state and its covered agencies to reimburse citizens’ attorney fees mandatorily, and this acts as the only enforcement mechanism to keep Florida’s government agencies, school districts, cities, counties, tax districts and town honest about responding to public records requests and providing citizens with the records created at taxpayer expense.
Garcia’s proposed bill 1220 would give judicial discretion to award attorneys fees to Florida citizens who’ve had their civil rights violated under the State Constitution’s much ballyhooed “Sunshine Law”, which is Article 24 of its Declaration of Rights also known as Article I.
“This is without a doubt the worst attack I’ve ever seen on open government in Florida,” said Florida open government activist Joel Chandler, “If it passes, it’s going to be a train wreck.”
“The “shall pay” provision in the Sunshine Law saves taxpayers money in a few distinctly important ways,” says Chandler, whose Sunshine Law advocacy includes lawsuits which he pursues pro se (without a lawyer), “First, it greatly incentivizes agencies to settle public records actions, rather than going the distance.
“Second, it limits the amount of fees these cities and agencies spend on outside counsel defending these actions. Also there’s an immeasurable value to the possibility of official misconduct being discovered, which acts as a check on government abuses.”
Chandler says that he will only settle with a government agency that agrees to ensure future compliance with the Sunshine Law as part of …Click Here To Read The Full Story >>>