North Carolina's open government laws don't hold a match to the "Sunshine Law" in Florida.
What's the biggest difference? Barbara Petersen, the president of the First Amendment Foundation in Florida, gave reporters and government officials at a panel discussion Wednesday a simple answer: It's in the Florida Constitution.
In 1992, Florida voters approved a referendum to put language guaranteeing access to public records and government meetings in the state's founding document. Petersen said it's what creates a culture of openness. Under the provisions in Section 24, the state legislature is the sole body to define what is public and open and what isn't -- which often leads to legislation closing the door on certain records. But it keeps local judges and governments from enforcing different standards, said Petersen, who spoke at Sunshine Day 2012 at Elon University. (Follow the action on Twitter @NCOpenGov.)
Open meetings and public records laws make it easier for members of the public to discover and understand their government -- and for the media to inform them about their tax dollars at work.