Florida Sunshine Law

Capstone - Summer 2017Journalism Thoughts

The public records law in Florida is known as the “Sunshine Law,” enshrined more specifically under Title X, Chapter 119 of the state statues. It is one of the most open such laws in the country. Here are the introductory paragraphs of the law:

119.01 General state policy on public records.

(1) 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.
(2)(a) Automation of public records must not erode the right of access to those records. As each agency increases its use of and dependence on electronic recordkeeping, each agency must provide reasonable public access to records electronically maintained and must ensure that exempt or confidential records are not disclosed except as otherwise permitted by law.

These records are tremendously useful for journalists, who can find and use vast amounts of records on how the government functions, who are awarded public contracts (aka money) and how decisions are made.

Note that the Sunshine Law only applies to state and local records. It does not cover federal agencies (such as the FBI) or the state court system. Interestingly, it does not cover the state legislature, which enacted the statue. However, it does cover the state executive branch — that is, agencies overseen by the governor.

The Florida State Attorney General’s office has a wide-ranging Q&A on the subject, which can be found here.

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