Sen. Kelli Stargel has refiled legislation that seeks to exempt personal information belonging to state legislators and members of the Governor’s Cabinet from Florida’s public record laws.
The bill, SB 1488, would shield from public disclosure the home addresses, telephone numbers and dates of birth of current legislators and Cabinet members. The exemption would also apply to their spouses and children, and would extend the public disclosure exemption to family members’ names, places of employment and locations of schools and daycare facilities attended by children.
The bill would also create a criminal penalty for any person who “knowingly and maliciously” publishes or disseminates the protected identifying information with the intent to “intimidate, hinder or interrupt current legislators and officers.”
Stargel filed a nearly identical bill last year, SB 832, that sought to provide the same exemptions.
Last year’s bill passed its first committee, but died before its second.
A House version of this year’s bill has yet to be filed. Last year, the House version, HB 1191, was sponsored by Republican Rep. Erin Grall.
The bill faces opposition from First Amendment advocates, who are wary about more exemptions.
When the bill was heard and approved in its first committee last year, the Florida AFL-CIO, in opposition, framed the bill as one containing myriad erosions of the Sunshine Law, saying “this is a very big exemption.” Many waived in opposition. No member of the public backed it.
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis expressed some trepidation to last year’s proposal.
“I’m pretty wary about trying to exempt a lot of things,” DeSantis said about the bill at a press conference last year. “You elect someone, you kind of need to know where they live if they’re going to represent your community.”
This year’s bill is still awaiting committee assignments, and if approved, will become effective July 1.