Rep. Mike Beltran has filed the House version of a bill that seeks to exempt personal information belonging to state legislators and members of the Cabinet from Florida’s public record laws.
The proposal, initially filed in the Florida Senate by Sen. Kelli Stargel, 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 day care facilities attended by children.
The bill would 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.”
While last year’s Senate bill passed through its first of three committees, the House bill died before being heard.
The legislation faces opposition from First Amendment advocates, who are wary about more exemptions.
When the Senate 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 it was “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.”
Both bills are still awaiting committee assignments, and if approved, will become effective July 1.