“I support the Legislature’s efforts to strengthen the CFO’s ability to bring greater light to agency contracts, but separation of powers must be preserved in that effort, as well as the independence of Florida’s elected Cabinet,’’ Putnam said in a statement.
Atwater believes that if the House language becomes law it will be a setback, but he will post every contract to his website even without the mandate.
“As long as I’m in this office, any contract that we negotiate will be there,’’ he said.
Other efforts to shield records include:
• HB 249 and SB 1260 creates a public record exemption for any email address of anyone who is a registered voter that is obtained by any state, county or municipal agency, thereby exempting public officials who attempt to skirt public meeting laws by communicating via email. The measure is up for a vote in the House on Wednesday.
• An amendment to SB 1024, approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday, would make it a misdemeanor for anyone to receive confidential data relating to unemployment claims, even if an agency accidentally turned over the information. Reporters who are leaked information from a whistleblower, for example, could be charged with a crime just for receiving the documents.
• SB 2, the Senate’s sweeping ethics reform bill, opens the door for any public official who wants to avoid disclosing embarrassing financial information on their financial disclosure forms to create a blind trust to hold their assets. The measure also creates a new loophole for public officials who want to amend their financial disclosure forms by giving them 30 days to change the form.
• The Senate Rules Committee on Monday approved a bill, SB 1680, to prevent any interview with a witness in a child abuse case to be recorded or maintained as a public record.
The exemptions come just months after Senate President Don Gaetz cancelled a transparency program that was supposed to make budgeting and contracting documents more accessible to lawmakers.
During weekend budget negotiations, legislative leaders made decisions behind closed doors to insert projects into the budget without consulting rank and file members, or even committee chairmen.
Late Friday, for example, a $500,000 project for the David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa was tucked into the budget by the Senate, even though it wasn’t included in either the House or Senate budgets passed on the floor.
“I don’t know where it originated,” said Rep. Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater, the vice chair of the budget subcommittee on economic development during the negotiations on Sunday.
Dan Krassner, executive director of the independent government watchdog group Integrity Florida, said he hopes the Senate stands firm “against the House secret contracts plan.”
“It’s disappointing to see a last minute maneuver for vendor contract secrecy led by the Florida House without opposition from Speaker Weatherford," he said. “All government contracts to spend taxpayer money should be posted online for the public to see."
Herald/Times Tallahassee reporters Katie Sanders and Michael Van Sickler contributed to this report.