Government in the Sunshine
Florida has a long history of open government that began in 1909 with the passage of the Public Records Law (Section 119 of Florida Statutes), which says that citizens can see, read and copy any records the government receives during the course of business unless a state law says the information is private. In 1967, Florida expanded on this by passing the Government-in-the-Sunshine Law (Chapter 286 of Florida Statutes), requiring most government meetings to be held in the open and to allow citizens to attend those meetings.
This law applies when two or more members of the same elected or appointed public board or commission meet to discuss or take action on any matter that may foreseeably come before them for action. The Sunshine Law requires that:
- Meetings be open to the public.
- Notice be given.
- Minutes be taken.
Public boards or commissions are prohibited from holding their meetings at any facility that discriminates on the basis of sex, age, race, color, national origin, creed, religion, or economic status; or operates in a manner that unreasonably restricts public access. Public agencies should take reasonable steps to ensure that meeting facilities will accommodate the anticipated turnout.
The board or commission should provide a written notice containing the time, place, and general subject of the meeting. Notice should be published, posted, and/or circulated in a way meant to allow members of the public who may be interested to know about the meeting. Posting on the website complies with this requirement.
Minutes of a public meeting must be promptly recorded and open to public inspection. A written transcript of a meeting may be used as the minutes, which do not have to be verbatim.
Certain public meetings result in actions taken by the public board, commission, or agency that may be appealed. Those who appeal any decision made at a public meeting/hearing will need a verbatim record of the proceedings. It is the duty of the person appealing the decision to make sure a verbatim record of the proceedings is made. That record must include the testimony and evidence upon which the appeal is to be based.