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Rep. Fasano to be feted for open government work

Brent Kallestad, Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Veteran state legislator Mike Fasano was honored Thursday by the First Amendment Foundation for his efforts improving transparency in government.

Foundation President Barbara Petersen praised Fasano's long record of ensuring the legislative process remains open and accessible while representing the people's interests, most notably in the 2012 session.

"He has consistently dedicated his time and effort to making sure that the average Floridian has a voice in the process," Petersen said. "Rep. Fasano has continually proven himself a friend of the people, not just his constituents, but those encountering roadblocks as they try to manage the maze of government bureaucracy."

A 54-year-old maverick Republican from New Port Richey, Fasano was elected to the House over a write-in candidate last November after securing the GOP nomination in an August primary. He returned to the House where he began his legislative career in 1994 before ascending to the state Senate in 2002.

"I've learned a lot along the way," said Fasano.

He had asked the state Senate to subpoena records from the State Board of Administration in late 2011 regarding its decision to hand over money to an investment firm that specializes in shaking up companies. Fasano's request came after the executive director for the state board said it would cost nearly $11,000 to compile and go through records that were requested.

"I am appalled that the SBA would throw this unbelievable hurdle in front of my access to public information," Fasano wrote.

The SBA, which manages the state's $100 billion-plus pension fund for public employees, handed over the records without a payment request after a very public squabble.

"Our media plays a great role in balancing out the process," Fasano told editors and reporters at Thursday's luncheon.

The award is given each year to an individual who has made significant contributions to furthering open government in the Sunshine State and named after Pete Weitzel, a former managing editor of The Miami Herald.

Keynote speaker Jeff Atwater, a former Senate president and now the state's chief financial officer, said the First Amendment is the only way that an overreaching government can be restrained.

"It is time we get every dollar value for every dollar spent," said Atwater, who noted that nearly half of the contracts his office audited last year failed to meet state requirements. "The taxpayers of Florida deserve the same diligence that's being exercised in the marketplace."

Atwater wants all state contracts to be available online for citizens.