State Politics

Elections supervisors get more pay; public records get more opaque

Gov. Rick Scott signed another batch of bills into law Wednesday.
Gov. Rick Scott signed another batch of bills into law Wednesday. MIAMI HERALD FILE

It was a good day for county supervisors of elections and a bad day for open-government advocates after Gov. Rick Scott signed more than a dozen bills into law Wednesday.

Supervisors in every county except Miami-Dade won a pay raise that is expected to average 19 percent, putting their salaries in line with other county elected officials. The actual increases will range from $18,000 to $20,000 and cost $1.2 million statewide. (Miami-Dade’s supervisor is appointed, not elected.)

Among those who could benefit from the bump are two lawmakers running for the job in their counties: Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee, and Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla.

Scott said Tuesday that he supports the pay raise because “they’ve done a good job.”

“I think it’s the right thing to do,” he said.

The governor also signed new exemptions to the state’s public records laws, shielding the home addresses of EMTs, paramedics, non-sworn investigators at the Department of Financial Services and current or former employees of inspector generals’ offices.

It’s part of a broader push in recent years to protect various groups that supporters say need protection from threats.

“Why do EMTs need a home address exemption?” asked Barbara Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation, an open-government watchdog group that opposes the new public record shields. “They claim that people threaten them for saving their lives.”

And it may not actually accomplish that goal, Petersen said. It just makes it more difficult for people to obtain public information, she said, and creates additional work for agencies that have to redact the addresses from documents.

“If I want to hurt you, I know where you work,” Petersen said, “and am I going to make a public record request, or am I going to Google you? I’m going to Google you.”

In addition, Scott approved laws reducing the cost for a concealed weapons permit by $10 and making the threat of a shooting a second-degree felony.

Contact Michael Auslen at mauslen@tampabay.com. Follow @MichaelAuslen.

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