September 21, 2014
Enacted in 1967, the Florida Sunshine Law is a series of laws designed to guarantee that the public has access to the public records of governmental bodies in Florida. Sunshine Laws provide a right of access to governmental proceedings for both the state and local levels. Basically, think of the Florida Sunshine Law as certain rules that require “openness” within the government. Here is an in-depth look at the Sunshine Law and what it entails.
Sunshine Laws require the following:
- Board meetings or commissions meetings are required to be open to the public
- The public must have reasonable notice of these types of meetings
- The minutes of the meetings must be documented and recorded
Agencies, the Legislature, and the Sunshine Law
Numerous agencies are covered under the Sunshine Law, but not all of them. The law applies to any board and commission of state agencies as well as any other agency or authority of a county or municipal corporation. While these agencies are covered, federal agencies are not. The Sunshine Law applies to the Legislature and requires that meetings are open to public and that the public is given proper notice of the meetings.
What Meetings Are Public?
Discussion and deliberations are considered under part of the Sunshine Law, meaning the public has access to these meetings. Additionally, any board or commission that takes formal action is public as well. Essentially, the Sunshine Law includes the majority of gatherings as long as two or more individuals from the same board are present. There are exceptions to this requirement however—meetings regarding litigations and bargaining sessions are sometimes private. While meetings aren’t required to be recorded, if they are, then they become public records.
Can I Request/Obtain Public Records?
In short, yes, unless otherwise exempted. You can request public records and documents over the phone, in person, or in writing. Record requests must be honored by a custodian, unless otherwise exempted. Additionally, it’s not necessary for you to enclose why you are requesting the records and an agency can’t refuse to let public records be inspected or copied if they are requested.
Knowing your rights and being educated on laws such as the Sunshine Law can benefit you and the community. As a citizen of Florida, you have the right to access public documents and records, so if you’re ever denied access, exercise your right to know! For more legal information, click here, or visit KLG today.