Proposal would block information on Florida lawmakers

Floridians wouldn’t be able to know the ages of legislators and state Cabinet members or other family details, under a proposal filed Thursday for the 2020 legislative session.

The proposal (SB 832), filed by Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, would create a public-records exemption that would shield from release the home addresses, telephone numbers and dates of birth of members of the House, Senate and Cabinet, as well as the names, employers and birth dates of lawmakers’ spouses and children.

“Members of the Legislature and the Cabinet are often confronted with making difficult and impactful policy decisions,” the bill said. “As a result, legislators and Cabinet officers, and their families, may receive threats including, but not limited to, verbal threats, harassment, and intimidation as a result of carrying out their official duties. Vulnerability to such threats may discourage residents of this state from seeking elected office in order to protect themselves and their families.”

The measure would also shield from public records the names and locations of schools and day-care facilities attended by the children of lawmakers. House and Senate websites currently list the birthdays, if not the years of birth, for many lawmakers, along with the names of their spouses and children.

The House and Senate also often list lawmakers’ occupations, educational backgrounds, religious affiliations, recreational interests and even when they moved to Florida. Stargel already receives a public records exemption for her home address as her husband, former lawmaker John Stargel, is a circuit judge.