Katherine Barrett & Richard Greene. 2023. Access to public records is ‘deteriorating terribly’. Route Fifty, October 31st, 2023.
Back in May, at the recommendation of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, the state legislature made a change to its public records laws, exempting the governor’s travel records. Not only would the governor no longer be required to make details about his upcoming plans public, but even his past travels wouldn’t be available for scrutiny.
“The sponsors of the bill said the exemption was needed for the governor’s protection, which may be reasonable for future plans,” says Barbara Petersen, co-founder and executive director of the Florida Center for Government Accountability. “But it’s hard to see what protection is provided by exempting old travel records, including who he was with and who was paying for the travel.”
This is something of an extreme case, but it’s representative of the steady erosion of public records laws in Florida and a number of states. “There has been a consistent move to conceal more and more records from the public,” says Megan Rhyne, executive director of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government. “Some states have done so at a different rate than others, but we see this in many of them.”