Speaker flip-flops on 911 call exemptionsby Dara Kam | March 15th, 2010
House Speaker Larry Cretul reversed his position on a measure that would make 911 calls exempt from public records.
Cretul, R-Ocala, had pushed the bill at the behest of Florida Farm Bureau President John Hoblick, whose organization contributed $30,000 to the Republican Party of Florida over the past two years. Hoblick was incensed about a 911 call aired after his son died after a night of drinking and using prescription pills.
“The issue of broadcasters using taped calls of desperate citizens seeking help from 911 remains a very important one. I’ve listened to many people on this matter, both pro and con, read news articles, correspondence, and editorials. There’s no question that the broadcasts provoke strong feelings. For now, it’s best to take a breather, turn our attention to the bill to improve 911 service in Florida—an equally important measure. I don’t think we need to move forward on the 911 tapes bill at this time,” Cretul said in a statement provided by his spokeswoman Jill Chamberlain.
The proposal outraged First Amendment advocates and some crime victims, including the family of Denise Amber Lee, who was murdered after the botched handling of a 911 call in Charlotte County, who want the tapes to remain available because they hold emergency dispatchers and law enforcement agencies accountable and because they are used to train dispatchers.
Denise Amber Lee’s family is backing a measure that would make Florida require training and certification of 911 dispatchers.
Chamberlain did not know whether the House sponsor Rep. Rob Schenck, R-Spring Hill, would pull the bill from his committee where it is scheduled to be heard later this week.