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Observations and musings on Jacksonville Politics

100 Years of Open Records in Florida

This year we celebrate 100 years of open government records in Florida.  According to a Herald Tribune column on the history of Florida public records law:

Park Trammell was born in Alabama in 1876, but moved with his parents to a farm near Lakeland shortly after. At the turn of the century, he had become an attorney and opened his practice in Lakeland, where he was mayor in 1899.

In 1909, Trammell, then 33, started his term as Florida attorney general. That same year, he delivered a report to the Legislature: “I would suggest a law providing that at all times all the public records of the state, county and municipal officers shall be open for a personal inspection of any citizen of Florida.”

Trammell’s call for open public records turned into a bill filed by Rep. J.W. Mahaffey of Gadsden County. Perhaps because of the simpler time, the language was brief and straightforward:

“Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:

“Section 1. That all state, county and municipal records shall at all times be open for a personal inspection of any citizen of Florida and those in charge of such records shall not refuse this privilege to any citizen.

“Section 2. That any official who shall violate the provisions of Section 1 of this act shall be subject to removal or impeachment.”

The bill passed both the House and Senate unanimously.

Florida’s public records law is now littered with numerous exemptions, and public officials rarely get more than a slap on the wrist for violating it.  Maybe we need to step back to a simpler time.

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Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics,

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