Florida’s Open Government

Thu, Jul 19, 2012

General Legal Issues

Florida's Open GovernmentHave you heard of the Florida Sunshine Law? It was created in 1967 and further supports Florida’s Public Records Law, which was passed in 1909.

The Sunshine Law is protected by Florida’s constitution in an amendment passed in 1992 through the help of the Florida Attorney General, who safeguards this law. The Sunshine Law, the Public Records Laws, and Florida’s Constitution all work together to create Florida’s open government.

Chapter 119 of the Florida Statutes outlines Florida’s Public Records Law. The main idea of the law is: “It is the policy of this state that all state, county, and municipal records are open for personal inspection and copying by any person. Providing access to public records is a duty of each agency.”

The Sunshine Law is in Chapter 286 of the Florida State Statutes. It goes a little further than the Florida Public Records Law–in that it allows public access to meetings of various boards and committees. It also addresses various other things like Green Lodging, funds limitations, access to officials, etc.

The main website for the Sunshine Law has a fabulous FAQs section that helps citizens and agencies determine if the Sunshine Law applies to them. The website also has an entire manual that is available to be downloaded as a PDF.

The Sunshine Laws came to SmithLaw’s attention recently when a newspaper article stated that the city of Sarasota might have violated the Sunshine Laws when it held certain meetings about an arts issue. A link to the article is found here. The Attorney General has five pages of instances where other violations might have occurred and this list of legal opinions about different cases.

Florida’s open government is an interesting topic for those who wish to be involved in the public arena. Perhaps the best place to start is with this overview of the Sunshine Law published by the state. Do not be caught unaware of Florida’s Public Records Laws and the Florida Sunshine Law.

Image:  Some rights reserved by johnnysam

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