NEWS MEDIA UPDATE · FLORIDA · Freedom of Information · May 24, 2007
Governor signs updates to public records law
May 24, 2007 · Public records custodians at government agencies are now required to respond to records requests “promptly and in good faith” after Gov. Charlie Crist signed a bill into law Tuesday.
Then-Gov. Jeb Bush vetoed a similar bill last year. This year’s bill passed through the House and Senate unanimously, though the bill was nearly identical to last year’s bill, said Adria Harper, director of the Florida First Amendment Foundation.
The version Crist signed says officials must respond to public records requests “promptly” instead of being filled in a “reasonable” amount of time.
“This law will have a substantial effect on public records requests,” Harper said. “The word ‘promptly’ is a more clear standard that will benefit citizens. The important thing is that public records need to be provided without any sort of delay.”
The new law also allows public information officers to choose another officer or employee to inspect public records so records can be processed without unnecessary delays.
Additionally, the name of the substitute officer must be released to the records requester, and the public information officer, or alternate, must be available to respond to requests during regular business hours.
Harper said a common problem citizens and journalists faced was that they could not access public records because a records custodian would be out of town and there was no one in the agency who could retrieve the documents. Similarly, smaller agencies that did not have a designated records keeper were having lawyers work on a limited schedule to get people information.
The new bill goes into effect July 1.
(S.B. 1760) — NC