TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The Florida Legislature is in the process of reviewing a proposal to make all travel logs of the governor, the state’s cabinet members, legislative leaders, and the Chief Justice exempt from public record requests.
The bill’s sponsor, Jonathan Martin, (R-Fort Myers), said the bill would specifically cover transportation and security services for the governor, his immediate family, visiting governors from other states, and others “as requested by certain state officers.”
The House version of the legislation, House Bill 1495, was approved by the Criminal Justice Subcommittee on Tuesday.
“This exemption applies to records held by a law enforcement agency before, on, or after the effective date of the exemption,” the bill reads. Essentially, that means records that are already held or archived would be retroactively privatized as well.
By way of explanation, the bill itself states that “The [Florida] Legislature finds that it is a public necessity that records pertaining to transportation and protective services by the Department of Law Enforcement and other law enforcement agencies…be made exempt,” from the records statute, for “the Governor, the Governor’s immediate family, visiting governors and their families, the Lieutenant Governor, a member of the Cabinet, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the President of the Senate, or the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court,” as well as anyone traveling with them.
Through the bill’s proposed changes, disclosing security, operations, and logistics plans, as well as analyses of potential risks, vulnerabilities, or threats, would be blocked from requests by media outlets or private individuals. It would also apply to staffing records for those “engaged” in protection or travel services for the specified people.
The proposed legislation says “The Legislature finds that the safety and security of individuals authorized to have protection pursuant to [the statutes]…as well as as the safety and security of agents providing the transportation and protective services, outweigh any public benefit that may be derived from the disclosure of these records.”
In the legislative analysis of the bill’s impacts, the Florida Legislature reported that as law enforcement agencies perform the transportation and protection duties required, reports with security details, as well as planning notes, are included.
“Knowledge of such information may increase the risks involved in providing such services,” the analysis said. Further down, detailing the exemption itself, the legislative staff wrote “The exemption does not appear to be broader than necessary to accomplish the purpose of the law.”
That said, the bill applies retroactively to any and all records regarding protection, travel, and potential threats, meaning it transcends the current administration both past and future.
“There has been an increase in public records requests regarding our governor and his travel simply because of the notoriety of his position for the past few years,” Martin said about the bill during a government oversight committee on Wednesday.
Related to his larger public profile, DeSantis has traveled across the country on multiple occasions in recent weeks, with a combination of book tour stops and campaign-style events touting Florida policies as models for the rest of the U.S.
The bill passed unanimously in committee in both chambers. If it passes floor votes in both the House and Senate, the bill would take effect immediately upon approval by the governor.