How Florida’s ‘sunshine’ and open meetings public record laws work

News 6 by Emilee Speck

September 19, 2018

Anyone ever wondering why Florida has some of the weirdest news stories can look to the Sunshine State’s public record laws. It’s not actually because everyone in Florida is dumping alligators in a Wawaor allegedly giving their girlfriend battery charge-worthy wet willies.

The Sunshine Law is a broad state constitutional law established in 1995 to ensure that the public — which includes everyday citizens, not just journalists — has access to official records related to Florida’s governing agencies.

What counts as a ” public record”?

Public records apply to any document — including photos, maps, papers, emails — that are related to any official agency business. That means arrest reports from sheriff’s offices and police departments, leading to man “Florida man” and “Florida woman” stories when stranger-than-fiction crimes are committed.

There are exemptions to Florida’s public records law, including names of victims and their addresses.

Florida also has an Open Meetings Law, which requires minutes or notes be recorded during official meetings of two or more officials and that “all meetings of any governmental body where official acts will be taken are public meetings,” according to BallotPedia.org.

How to submit a public records request

There are several ways to request documents from state, county and city offices. The First Amendment Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to open government, offers these 10 tips to help with making a request. The foundation also has a list of Florida agency contacts who can help with records requests.

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