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Proposed law would shield lawmakers’ addresses if passed

This is the second year legislation to shield state lawmakers’ and cabinet members’ home...
This is the second year legislation to shield state lawmakers’ and cabinet members’ home address, phone numbers, and date of birth from the public record has been filed.(WBKO)
Published: Feb. 22, 2021 at 3:58 PM CST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS DESK) - Protecting privacy from big tech is high on legislative priorities this year, but lawmakers are also pushing legislation that would shield voter registration data and their own personal information from the public record.

This is the second year legislation to shield state lawmakers’ and cabinet members’ home address, phone numbers, and date of birth from the public record has been filed.

Sponsor Kelli Stargel, Republican from Lakeland, couldn’t be reached, but last year she said the legislation was aimed at protecting elected officials’ families from danger.

“What I’m trying to solve the problem, is someone who’s in the heat of a moment, of an anger, of a frustration, get online, Google and the first thing that pops up is my home address,” Stargel said last year.

The First Amendment Foundation argues shielding lawmakers’ addresses from the public eye would make it harder to ensure officials live in the districts they represent. The Foundation also takes issue with an exemption in the bill for the employer of elected officials’ spouses.

“It’s impossible for the public to really know if there’s any conflicts of interest,” Attorney Virginia Hamrick, with the First Amendment Foundation, said.

Another bill filed this year would shield registered voters’ emails, addresses, date of birth, and phone numbers.

Mark Earley, Vice President of the Florida Supervisors of Elections, supports the effort.

“If they can’t trust that they can get registered to vote and still maintain some kind of personal privacy that’s a bad statement about where we are,” Earley said.

There’s one notable exception in the bill. Political parties and candidates could still access the voter registration data.

“So it’s just available to some and not the public,” Hamrick said.

Whether the records exemption proposals will fare better this year than in previous sessions might depend on how successful the Governor and legislative leaders are in their push for privacy from big tech.

Any public records expeditions must be passed by a two-thirds vote in each chamber.