Public and Lawmakers Dispute Privacy Laws

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Florida voters said they wanted access to records of medical mistakes, but Florida lawmakers don’t want to make it easy.

Sen. Burt Saunders is sponsoring legislation that only lets patients with related medical conditions to see the info.

Sen. Burt Saunders, (R) Naples, says, "I don’t want third parties going on fishing expeditions just to find out what’s going on in the hospital. That’s not right for the hospital; it’s definitely not right for the patients in the hospital. Confidentiality, as it relates to medical records, is very important."

Another bill would block much of the information on applications for absentee ballots. Sen. Bill Posey says he wants to make sure no one can get your Social Security or driver’s license number.

Sen. Bill Posey, (R) Rockledge, says, "I think if you allow that to happen people will not register to vote and they won't vote for fear of identity theft."

But open government advocates fear the measure will thwart efforts to track election fraud. All together lawmakers are trying to limit or close access to more than 30 public records this year.

Advocates of open government say the chipping away at access to public records hurts all of us. How else can we keep an eye on what’s really going on behind closed doors?

First Amendment lawyer Barbara Petersen says the effort to get around the medical mistakes amendment is a perfect example.

Barbara Petersen of the First Amendment Foundation says, "I don’t think it’s what the voters wanted and I think it’s important for our legislators to remember that 81 percent of the voters approved the amendment, and for them to turn around and close access to us is a slap in the face."

Petersen says it’s particularly upsetting when the public loses access to records of how their tax dollars are spent and public safety issues. She hopes citizens care enough to fight back.