Leahy Law

Government Signs Open Government Bill of Rights

By Cochran Douglas on November 14, 2007

In less than a year, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R) appears to be fulfilling his campaign promises to champion the cause of open government throughout state agencies.

Immediately after taking office he established a state office for training state agencies and ensuring agency compliance with public records laws. Then in June, Crist created a nine-member commission made up of media representatives, open government advocates, state legislators and law enforcement agents to review and evaluate Florida’s public records and open meetings laws.

Now Crist has taken recommendations put forward by the open government commission and signed into law a first-of-its kind “Open Government Bill of Rights.”

The declaration of rights directs state agencies to treat the public with respect and professionalism; obviates written records requests unless specifically required by law; assures requests receive prompt attention; enumerates the public’s right to itemized records fees; and, reiterates state constitutional rights to public records and open meetings.

According to language in the executive order signed Nov. 15 establishing the bill of rights, state agencies are to adopt the measures in order to “guarantee that the right of access to public meetings and records is safeguarded and protected.”

In a statement from the governor’s Web site, Crist says that the goal “is to increase access for all Floridians so they have the tools needed to hold government accountable.”

Also on Nov. 15, Crist introduced an initiative his press office said is designed to improve Internet access to state agency contact information and helps information requesters with their records requests.

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