Support local journalism. Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club.

Sunshine law's eclipse? 

Two bills filed in the state House aim to curtail the state's public-records law. HB 43, filed by Rep. Lindsay Harrington (R-Punta Gorda), would close all public access to identifying information on motor-vehicle records while allowing private investigators, rental-car companies, insurance companies and others exempted under the state Driver Protection and Privacy Act to keep access.

An aid to Harrington (who according to state records has a clean driving history) said the legislator wrote the bill in reaction to a story about a convicted sex offender who was using driving records to find the addresses of young girls in his town. The other bill, HB 51, filed by Rep. Sally Heyman (D-N. Miami), would require records requesters to provide proof of identity.

Barbara Petersen, a records-law watchdog in Tallahassee, says both bills are unconstitutional. "What Rep. Harrington is trying to do is kill a fly with a sledgehammer," she says. She says a bill she authored in 1994 offers a better remedy by increasing the penalties for crime committed using public information.

Petersen says that Heyman's bill is worse than Harrington's because it would have a chilling effect. "I always encourage people to put it writing if they don't mind," Petersen says. "But if it's a citizen activist who thinks the city council is corrupt ... it also gives the official a chance to treat their request differently."

Tags: ,

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Orlando Weekly. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Orlando Weekly, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club for as little as $5 a month.


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Read the Digital Print Issue

October 20, 2021

View more issues


© 2021 Orlando Weekly

Website powered by Foundation