Update, November 21, 2015, 9:00 a.m.: Due to updates to Florida's data, the state's rank is no longer tied, but is still 30th overall.
When people who are not from Florida think about Florida, they think Disney World. They think sunburnt half-wits who can’t understand a ballot. They think weird news, like a guy getting arrested for trying to trade a live alligator for beer. They don’t often think hard about why so much weird news comes out of the nation’s southeastern tip, but here’s one interesting reason: Since 1909, Florida has had strict laws that declare nearly all government documents — including police reports — public records.
The Florida Sunshine Law, as open records and meetings regulations have come to be known, has long been a source of chest-thumping in Tallahassee. “Florida is proud to lead the nation in providing public access to government meetings and records,” brags the Office of the Attorney General on its website.
But for some, the law seems not to apply.
Over the past several years, the rich and powerful in Florida have seemed far less accountable to open government laws than the drug-addled and hapless. So while the public is welcome to read about how a spring breaker bit off a hamster’s head, nobody was supposed to learn about how Gov. Rick Scott ousted a top law enforcement official behind closed doors, potentially violating the state’s open meetings law.
When somebody got stabbed during confusion involving harmonicas, it was everyone’s business. Meanwhile, public figures are free to hide hundreds of millions of dollars in blind trusts and dodge public scrutiny over conflicts of interest.