Florida Public Records Law's Toughened Requirements for Business: Dilemma for Lobbyist?
A few weeks ago, a powerful Tallahassee attorney named Karen Walker posted a warning on her firm's website about new language in state public records law. It could, she wrote, lead to increased litigation against businesses that provide services to Florida state or local government.
The new language comes from House Bill 1309, and requires such businesses to meet the same standards of transparency about government contracts -- of whatever size -- that already existing Florida law required of contracts in excess of $10 million from the government itself. (State public records law is one of the few places of honor Florida holds in the realm of public affairs.)
Walker, a partner at mega-giant firm Holland & Knight, specializes in government contracts and public utility law. She's also a lobbyist and, along with the firm's "senior policy advisor" Kimberly Case, represents ARAMARK Correctional Services (the fabled "three hots and a cot") and the Florida Press Association.
Walker told the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting her post about the new law wasn't intended to alert anyone in particular and that the new law "has both good and bad elements."
What strikes us is how Walker's client list leaves her at cross-purposes. ARAMARK, with its spotty history, may recoil from the new law's requirements. But the Florida Press Association's motto is "Promoting and Encouraging Higher Standards of Journalism," and the enhanced sweep of the law certainly furthers that. Even the best of us sometimes must decide which pony to ride.
We asked Walker for comment. By email, she replied:
There is no conflict. The August 1, 2013 piece was written simply to inform companies that contract with Florida governmental entities of the new public records requirements in CS/CS/HB 1309. It does not advocate for or against the new law.
We've emailed FPA for comment. We'll update if and when they reply.
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