By Tracy M. Evans Esq., Associate, Saxon Gilmore & Carraway, P.A.

House Bill 843 (“HB 843”) proposed a new exemption to Florida’s Government in the Sunshine Law (“Sunshine Law”), but was rejected by lawmakers on May 2, 2017, when it failed to obtain the required two-thirds approval.

Florida’s Sunshine Law requires that board or commission meetings of any local, county or state agency or authority where official acts will be taken be made open to the public. Reasonable notice of any such meetings must be provided to the public. There are some exceptions to this general requirement, but there is a strong presumption in favor of providing public access to government meetings and records, so any exceptions to Sunshine Law are narrowly construed.

HB 843 sought to add a new exemption to Sunshine Law by allowing certain meetings between two members of a board or commission to be private. The exemption would have applied only to boards or commissions with a minimum of five members, and the meetings could not include any formal action, discussions regarding the direct expenditure of public funds to a private vendor, and could not be intended to frustrate or circumvent the purpose of Sunshine Law.

While HB 843 won a majority of the votes in the Florida House, it did not obtain the required two-thirds approval required to pass an exemption to Sunshine Law. This is the first time since the two-thirds requirement was approved by voters in 2002 that a proposed exemption has failed to pass.

 

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