Gov. DeSantis receives bill keeping college presidency candidates secret
Partial disclosure: new bill gives less info to public about presidential search candidates

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Applicants would be shielded from public disclosure unless selected as finalists.

Legislation that could keep candidates for college presidencies anonymous for part of the search process moved to Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday.

Florida lawmakers approved earlier this month legislation that would provide a public records exemption for information about applicants seeking state higher ed presidential positions.

SB 520 will, if signed into law, keep the identities of early presidential search candidates shielded from public records requests, to allow applicants more freedom to apply for jobs without disclosing those searches to current employers.

Finalists, however, would not be subject to the secrecy pledge.

The legislation was a source of back-and-forth negotiation between the House and the Senate.

The Senate version, which prevailed, provides a 21-day period for information on the finalists to be made public for the university or college to receive community feedback. That 21-day period is where the Senate bill differed from the House version, which reduced that timeframe to 14 days.

An amendment added on the Senate side also addresses equity concerns. The provision, sponsored by St. Petersburg Democrat Darryl Rouson, would make public “the age, race, and gender of all applicants who met the minimum qualifications” for the position after the finalists are selected.

Ultimately, the product met with broad approval. Because the bill would create a public records exemption, it required a two-thirds vote of each legislative chamber to become law.

The House cleared the Senate version of the bill (SB 520), championed by St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes, in an 86-26 vote with a handful of Democrats down on the proposal. The Senate passed the bill in a similar, near party-line 28-11 vote.

DeSantis has seven days to act on this legislation.


Florida Politics’ Kelly Hayes and A.G. Gancarski contributed reporting. 

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