Fla. voters limit FOI exemptions in state

FLORIDA ‘ A state appeals court ruled this summer ruled that a law that restricts public access to autopsy photos in the state is constitutional. Voters in the November election responded by passing an amendment to the state constitution that makes it harder to circumvent the state’s open-records law.

Constitutional Amendment 4 will require a two-thirds majority vote in the state Senate and House in order for any future exemptions to the Florida freedom of information laws to be created.

FOI advocates urged the Legislature to put the amendment on the ballot. They contended lawmakers were making too many loopholes, including the autopsy law recently passed. The act, signed by Gov. Jeb Bush, sealed the autopsy photos of Dale Earnhardt, the race car driver who died during the Daytona 500 in February 2001.

Several news organizations, including the University of Florida’s Independent Florida Alligator, challenged the law on the grounds that it was in violation of the state constitution. The Alligator is asking the Florida Supreme Court to hear the case.