Florida Governor Charlie Crist recently announced two new open government initiatives that will go a long way in improving public access to government documents and meetings in Florida.
The first initiative seeks to improve Internet access to state agency information by requiring agencies to create links from their individual homepages to a website that directs users on how to make public records requests or learn more about Florida’s open government laws. These new websites will also include organization charts, open government contacts, budget information, contracts with vendors and providers, legislative budget requests and legislative priorities. A list of state agency open government websites can be found here.
The second initiative involves a bill of rights for all Floridians trying to access public records. The list of rights was compiled by the Commission on Open Government, established by Crist on June 19, 2007. Crist issued the bill of rights on November 15, 2007, through Executive Order 07-242, which requires all state agencies to adopt their own open government bills of rights to protect citizens’ access to public records.
Here is the complete text of Executive Order 07-242:
STATE OF FLORIDA
OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR
EXECUTIVE ORDER NUMBER 07-242
WHEREAS, an open and accessible government is the key to establishing and maintaining the people’s trust and confidence in their government and its ability to effectively serve its citizens; and
WHEREAS, the state of Florida has a long history of providing public access to the records and meetings of public entities; and
WHEREAS, Florida must continually strive to be a national leader in open government reform; and
WHEREAS, on June 19, 2007, by Executive Order 07-107, I created the Commission on Open Government to review, evaluate, and issue recommendations regarding Florida’s public records and public meetings laws; and
WHEREAS, the Commission on Open Government met on August 22-23, 2007 and received public testimony requesting the need for greater ease of access to public meetings and documents, the need to increase the respect with which our government agencies interact with our citizens, and create a culture which will build the people’s trust and confidence in their government and its ability to serve the people;
WHEREAS, streamlining and clarifying applicable laws and policies will result in making government more open, accessible, and accountable to its citizens; and
NOW, THEREFORE, I, CHARLIE CRIST, as Governor of Florida, by virtue of the authority vested in me by Article IV, Section (1)(a) of the Florida Constitution, and all other applicable laws, promulgate the following Executive Order, to take immediate effect:
All agencies under the direction of the Governor shall adopt an Open Government Bill of Rights to guarantee that the right of access to public meetings and records is safeguarded and protected. This Bill of Rights shall be conspicuously posted on the agency’s website and at the agency’s headquarters. It shall include the following provisions:
A. A statement that the public is entitled to be treated with respect, courtesy, and professionalism.
B. A statement that a public records request does not have to be made in writing unless a specific statute requires otherwise. In that case, the statute imposing such a requirement shall be cited.
C. A statement that receipt of all public record requests shall be acknowledged promptly and in good faith as required by section 119.07(1)(b), Florida Statutes.
D. A statement that fees shall not exceed the amount authorized by section 119.07(4), Florida Statutes, unless another amount is expressly authorized by law. In that case, the statute imposing such a requirement shall be cited.
E. A statement that the public has the right to an itemized invoice of proposed fees or fees charged.
F. A statement recognizing that access to public records and meetings are rights secured under sections 119.07(1) and 286.011, Florida Statutes and Article 1, Section 24, Florida Constitution.
All state agencies under the direction of the Governor are directed, and all other state agencies are requested, to provide such assistance to the individuals carrying out the directions in this Executive Order as may be requested in furtherance of the objectives described.
IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF, I have
hereunto set my hand and caused the Great
Seal of the state of Florida to be affixed, at
Tallahassee, this 15th day of November, 2007.
(Thanks to the FOI Advocate for alerting me to this.)