DeSantis hesitates to exempt personal information from public officials

Governor DeSantis expressed some trepidation Wednesday about a Senate proposal that would create a public-records exemption for sensitive information about members of the House, Senate and Cabinet, their spouses and children.

Historic City News, through the Florida First Amendment Foundation, is monitoring a number of Bills that would impact your right to government transparency.  These Bills, currently working their way through the Florida legislature, would further erode public access to public information, if approved.

“You elect someone, you kind of need to know where they live if they’re going to represent your community,” DeSantis said after an appearance Wednesday in Tallahassee and reported by News Service of Florida.  At issue were the home addresses, telephone numbers and dates of birth as well as the names, employers and birthdates of lawmakers’ dependents.  “I’m pretty wary about trying to exempt a lot of things.”

Senate Bill sponsor Kelli Stargel, a Lakeland Republican, said her intention in trying to shield the personal information identified in SB-832, is to avoid repeats of incidents such as the 2011 assassination attempt against former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and a 2017 shooting of Louisiana Congressman Steve Scalise during a practice for an annual congressional baseball game.  DeSantis, himself a member of Congress at the time, left the field shortly before the shooting.

The Bill was approved Tuesday in a 4-3 vote by the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee and must go before two more committees.  The House version of the bill (HB-1191) has not been heard in committees.

“As Governor, I know we get certain things that one has to respond to,” DeSantis said. falling short of expressing support or opposition to the proposal as written. “But just to do a blanket, without there being any type of reason to do it, I just have to look at it.”

Stargel said the internet has made it easier for people to get public records. Her measure would also shield from public records the names and locations of schools and day-care facilities attended by the children of lawmakers.