Florida Senate - 2019 SB 1176 By Senator Baxley 12-01227-19 20191176__ 1 A bill to be entitled 2 An act relating to public records; amending s. 3 119.071, F.S.; providing an exemption from public 4 records requirements for information obtained by a 5 property appraiser’s office during an investigation of 6 an exemption claim until the office has taken 7 specified actions; providing for future legislative 8 review and repeal; providing a statement of public 9 necessity; providing an effective date. 10 11 Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida: 12 13 Section 1. Paragraph (p) is added to subsection (2) of 14 section 119.071, Florida Statutes, to read: 15 119.071 General exemptions from inspection or copying of 16 public records.— 17 (2) AGENCY INVESTIGATIONS.— 18 (p)1. All information obtained by a property appraiser’s 19 office during an investigation of an exemption claim in 20 accordance with its duties as prescribed by law is exempt from 21 s. 119.07(1) and 24(a), Art. I of the State Constitution until 22 the office either: 23 a. Provides written notice, by certified mail, to the 24 person whose exemption claim is the subject of the investigation 25 that the office has concluded the investigation with a finding 26 to proceed with the removal of the exemption and informs such 27 person of the amounts of back taxes and penalties due; or 28 b. Has concluded or otherwise ended the active 29 investigation and has decided not to proceed with the removal of 30 the exemption. 31 2. This paragraph is subject to the Open Government Sunset 32 Review Act in accordance with s. 119.15 and is repealed on 33 October 2, 2024, unless reviewed and saved from repeal through 34 reenactment by the Legislature. 35 Section 2. (1) The Legislature finds that it is a public 36 necessity that, pursuant to s. 119.071(2)(p), Florida Statutes, 37 all information obtained by a property appraiser’s office during 38 an investigation of an exemption claim be exempt from public 39 records requirements until the office provides notice of its 40 finding to proceed with the removal of the exemption or has 41 concluded or otherwise ended the active investigation and has 42 decided not to proceed with the removal of the exemption. 43 (2) Without the public records exemption, a person who is 44 under investigation is able to request information relating to 45 the investigation. This provides the person with an opportunity 46 to obstruct the investigation in various ways including, but not 47 limited to, coaching persons who are being interviewed during 48 the investigation on how to respond. Additionally, a high 49 percentage of investigations result in the office’s 50 determination that an exemption is correct. Currently, a person 51 is able to request public records for all persons under 52 investigation and to use such information to solicit them for 53 representation before the office determines any wrongdoing. 54 Requested information obtained during an investigation may also 55 be published or broadcast to the public at large, which may 56 include the identification of a person under investigation. This 57 can result in the unfair and damaging perception that a person 58 has done wrong before any such determination is made. 59 Section 3. This act shall take effect July 1, 2019.