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Panel Approves Bill Limiting Fees in Public Records Cases

Florida House of Representatives
Posted at 8:11 AM, Jan 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-21 08:11:00-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A bill that open government advocates say would limit access to public records appears to be moving forward in the Florida House.

A committee on Wednesday unanimously approved House Bill 1021, giving judges an option whether to award legal fees to citizens when they prove a government agency wrongly withheld public records. Current law requires fees be awarded.

Advocates say the change is needed because of what they call a cottage industry involving unscrupulous lawyers who inundate government agencies and small towns with public records requests, and then sue when the requests aren't fulfilled.

But opponents say with no guarantee their costs will be reimbursed even if they win, citizens will be afraid to gamble on a lawsuit seeking to obtain public documents.