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Records Exemption Backed For Investigators, Paramedics

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Barry Gutierrez/NPR
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

With nearly unanimous backing, the Florida Senate has approved a bill that would prevent the release of personal information about financial-services investigators, paramedics and emergency-medical technicians.

Senators voted 38-1 on Thursday to approve the bill (SB 592), sponsored by Sen. Travis Hutson, R-Elkton Only Senate Minority Leader Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, dissented.

The bill would create a public-records exemption for personal information, such as addresses, telephone numbers and dates of birth, for paramedics, emergency-medical technicians and Florida Department of Financial Services investigators who are not sworn law-enforcement officers. Such exemptions already exist for other groups, including sworn law-enforcement officers.

The bill points to a need for the new exemptions because paramedics, EMTs and financial-services investigators could face threats because of their jobs.

"Emergency medical technicians or paramedics are public safety officers whose duties as first responders to accidents and life-threatening events often place them in traumatic circumstances in which loss of life and severe bodily injuries have occurred," part of the bill says. "They often deal with violent, angry, or mentally unstable individuals. As a result, the Legislature finds that release of identifying and location information of emergency medical technicians or paramedics … or the spouses and children of such emergency medical technicians or paramedics, could place them in danger of being physically or emotionally harmed or stalked by a person who has a hostile reaction to his or her encounter with such emergency medical technicians or paramedics."

The Senate last month also passed a separate bill (SB 320), filed by Sen. Garrett Richter, that deals only with the exemption for paramedics and EMTs. The House is considering the issues in two bills, HB 463 filed by Rep. Bobby DuBose, D-Fort Lauderdale, and HB 391, filed by Rep. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples. Both have received committee approvals but have not gone before the full House.