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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Fla. commission debates fees for records requests

The Florida Commission on Open Government has stirred up controversy in its discussion of proposed changes to the Sunshine Law. The proposals would curb agencies from charging high fees and require electronic records to be provided at cost of duplication. The redaction of confidential information from data would no longer be considered a "specialized service requiring additional charges" either. The opposition is arguing that with increasing costs and smaller staffs, filling requests could become a problem if these changes come to pass.
Two members of the Commission on Open Government — the head of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Hillsborough County attorney — vigorously oppose the panel's plan for ending stiff charges for providing copies of public records to citizens.

But the head of the First Amendment Foundation, who chairs the nine-member panel that Gov. Charlie Crist created to review exemptions to Florida's "sunshine" statutes, said government agencies had ample opportunity to object to draft proposals set for final consideration next week. She said the Legislature must prevent "exorbitant" charges that can run into hundreds of thousands of dollars for providing public information.

FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey and Renee Francis Lee, the county attorney in Tampa, wrote to JoAnn Carrin, director of the commission and head of Crist's office of open government, saying the cost of extensive record searches would be a hardship for already hard-pressed state, city and county governments. Bailey also said the open-government commission, on which he and Lee serve, did not take enough testimony from government agencies on the issue.

More here.

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