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Crist Rejects a Pair of Public Records Exemptions

Gov. Charlie Crist on Wednesday vetoed two bills that would have created new exemptions to the public records law – one that would have exempted the names of donors giving to build public buildings and another that would have exempted certain propietary business information submitted by telecomm companies to the state.

The first, SB 166, would have let donors giving money for public buildings - such as a college dorm or a wing of a government-owned hospital - remain anonymous. The measure, sponsored by Sen. Jeremy Ring, D-Margate, was intended to ease the minds of would-be donors who say they fear for their safety if people find out they're wealthy enough to make big donations.

But it was opposed by the First Amedment Foundation, which had lobbied for a veto.

The foundation had also opposed the other bill (HB 7093) though it didn't formally ask for a veto.

The governor also signed public records legislation on Wednesday, approving HB 7051, which changes the current exemption for social security numbers. The law will now allow access to all social security numbers by the media for the purpose of identity verification if the requestor puts the request in writing and verifies that he or she is a reporter. The legislation deletes a provision that allowed media access to only the last four digits of a government employee’s social security number.

Backed by living Gator alum, another bill (SB 926) approved Thursday by Crist would allow the University of Florida and the state's other 10 state universities to build columbaria on their respective campuses to house the cremated remains of alumni and supporters. The structures are limited to main campuses only and must be located on five acres or less.

"For many years, the University of Florida has had to address alumni requests for a place on campus for family and friends to place ashes after the death of an alumnus or friend of the institution," staff wrote in the bill analysis. "The construction of columbaria on the main campus of the university would provide a needed and desired resource for alumni and friends, and also build a sense of history at the university." Florida schools would join now such institutions as The U.S. Naval Academy, Notre Dame and the Citadel among those that have columbaria.

Another bill (HB 949) Crist signed into law Thursday, is aimed at stopping "libel tourism." Sponsors of the bill said defamation lawsuits have been filed in other countries against authors who have been critical of terrorist organizations like al Qaeda. The bill allows Florida courts to essentially ignore those lawsuits.

Among other bills Crist also signed on Wednesday were:

-HB 177, which clarifies that violations of provisions prohibiting keeping any list, record or registry of privately owned firearms or firearm owners may be committed by entities as well as individuals.

- SB 554, which allows university police to enforce laws outside of campus in certain circumstances.

-SB 766, which establishes new rules to conform to federal law to make it easier to donate and receive donated transplant organs.

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