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Kelli Stargel. Image via Phil Sears.

Influence

Senate panel moves bill to shield lawmakers’ addresses from public

HB 1191, the House version, has yet to make a committee agenda.

Citizens scouring public records may have a little less information soon.

SB 832, a bill filed by Sen. Kelli Stargel, would shield from public disclosure identifying information about legislators and their families and staff.

The bill passed Ethics and Elections, its first committee, on Tuesday.

Information like birthdays, addresses and places where people work would no longer be accessible in public records.

The cause of this non-disclosure: an atmosphere increasingly hostile to politicians.

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The bill would add to statute exemptions for “home addresses, telephone numbers, and dates of birth of current members of the Senate, members of the House of Representatives, and Cabinet officers; the names, home addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, and places of employment of the spouses and children of current legislators and Cabinet officers; and the names and locations of schools and daycare facilities attended by the children of current legislators and Cabinet officers.”

The Florida AFL-CIO, in opposition, framed the bill as one of a myriad of erosions of the Sunshine Law, saying “this is a very big exemption.” Many waived in opposition. No member of the public backed it.

Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, a Democrat, opposed the bill as the case “has not been made,” despite “threats” to members of the Legislature.

As well, Rodriguez questioned non-disclosure of addresses given the potential for legislators to run outside their districts and hide their addresses.

Stargel countered, saying “there’s still a requirement to certify your address with the Secretary of State.”

Time was, she added, when “it was more difficult to find out where we lived.”

Invoking Gabby Gifford and Steve Scalise, Stargel bemoaned “the anger as a whole” in the electorate.

“Members are getting younger and younger,” Stargel added, suggesting “the press” and external malefactors might exploit publicly disclosed addresses.

“I don’t think it needs to be as easily obtainable for public consumption in light of the hostility we’ve seen, the climate,” Stargel added.

Governmental Accountability and Rules are the next two stops for this bill on the Senate side.

HB 1191, the House version, has yet to make a committee agenda.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.

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