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    Panel on security may meet secretly, speaker says

    By Times staff writer

    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published September 26, 2001

    House Speaker Tom Feeney, R-Oviedo, said Tuesday it is possible that a newly formed select committee would meet in private as it researches ways of making Florida safe to residents and visitors.

    Feeney formed the 12-member Select Committee on Security on Monday.

    In a letter to Barbara Petersen of the First Amendment Foundation, Feeney said: "While I remain a strong advocate for openness in the legislative process, should the protection of the security of citizens of this state reasonably necessitate the holding of a closed meeting, I will not hesitate to take the necessary steps to authorize such a meeting."

    Closed-door meetings of legislative committees are unusual. The state Constitution states that "prearranged gatherings between more than two members of the Legislature ... shall be reasonably open to the public," and that each house of the Legislature is the sole judge of the "interpretation, implementation and enforcement" of the open-meeting requirement.

    The provision also provides for closed-door committee meetings "for security purposes or to protect a witness appearing before a committee."

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