College president search exemption clears House

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The proposal is intended to attract more applicants.

The House on Wednesday OK’d a bill that would create a 21-day public record exemption on the personal information of college and university President applicants.

The House passed the bill (HB 997) 101-16.  Rep. Sam Garrison of Fleming Island is the bill sponsor.

The bill aims to attract more applicants for President at Florida higher education institutions.

Proponents contend some applicants within academia are dissuaded from applying if their application is made known, particularly if they face long odds.

Moreover, people in business and elsewhere could face repercussions for applying to a new job.

Speaking on the House floor, Democratic Rep. Ramon Alexander of Tallahassee explained the concern in football terms.

“No outstanding head coach at Clemson is going to put his hat in the ring and risk his signing class and risk his stakeholder relations and risk the opportunity for retribution,” Alexander said.

Lawmakers have filed similar proposals in the past but have faced staunch opposition from open-government advocates.

Democratic Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith of Orlando voted in opposition to the bill.

Smith argued the proposal would allow presidential searches to operate with limited oversight.

“We are denying the public, our university communities, our students, our staff, [and] other stake holders the opportunity to more fully vet these candidates,” Smith said.

The House passed a version of the bill during the 2020 Session, though it failed in the Senate.

The bill now moves on to the Senate for consideration.

Because the bill would create a public records exemption, it requires a two-thirds vote of each legislative chamber in order to become law.

If signed into law, the bill would take effect July 1.

St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes is sponsoring the Senate version (SB 220).

The Florida College System consists of 28 public community and state colleges.

The Florida State University System, meanwhile, is comprised of 12 public state universities.

Jason Delgado

Jason Delgado covers news out of the state capital for Florida Politics. After a stint with the U.S. Army, Jason attended the University of Central Florida where he studied American Policy and National Security. His past bylines include WMFE-NPR and POLITICO Florida. Throw him a line at [email protected] or on Twitter at @byJasonDelgado.



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