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.
   11  Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
   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   32  Review Act in accordance with s. 119.15 and is repealed on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.