First Amendment Foundation

Steve Newborn / WUSF

Transportation planners are now using “meetings” to describe online task-force discussions about controversial toll-road projects from Collier County to the Georgia border. The state had been using the term “webinars” to describe the sessions amid complaints by open-government advocates that the task forces should hold in-person meetings.

State Transportation Development Director Christina Colon said Thursday the change was made as the three task forces move forward in efforts to hit a mid-November deadline to provide reports on the needs and potential layouts of the projects.

Judge Turns Down Bid To Block Cabinet Meeting In Israel

May 29, 2019

A Tallahassee judge on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit brought against Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet by open-government advocates, who made a last-ditch effort to stop a Cabinet meeting in Israel because they argue it will violate the state’s open-meeting laws.

Questions Raised Over Florida Cabinet Meeting In Israel

May 22, 2019

Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is going to Israel with a large contingent of business leaders — not surprisingly, especially as the GOP woos Jewish voters ahead of the 2020 presidential election. But DeSantis' plan to hold a meeting with his elected Cabinet while he's there has raised concerns about whether officials are violating the state's open-meeting laws. 

The First Amendment Foundation (FAF) in Tallahassee keeps watch over policy discussions that could impede the public’s right to know about government business.

“We track all bills that affect the public’s ability to oversee government and hold it accountable," says FAF president Barbara Petersen.

The foundation tracked 111 bills this year that would create new open government exemptions or extend current exemptions. 25 of them passed.

Broward Event Will Dive Into Florida's Sunshine Law

Oct 8, 2018
Joe Gratz / Flickr

In mid-September, the parents of two children killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School criticized a number of public agencies for failing to give them access to public records, such as meeting minutes, e-mails and police training exercise information related to the shooting.

They called into question Florida's "Sunshine Law," designed to guarantee that the public has access to the public records of governmental bodies in Florida.

Some Florida lawmakers received better grades this year when it came to transparency in government, but erosion of the state's famed "Sunshine Laws" continued with more exemptions passed.

Creative Commons

Florida allows some of the easiest access to government records and meetings of any state in the country under the state's Sunshine Laws. 

People have a right to access state documents like minutes from meetings between government officials, foster care case files and environmental studies. Government meetings for the most part are open to the public for anyone to attend.

Miami Herald

Every 20 years, a 37-person commission comes up with a list of amendments to the Florida Constitution.

The next cohort of the Constitutional Revision Commission (CRC) met on Monday for the first time,  in the Florida Senate chambers in Tallahassee.

The group will have a year to travel around the state and figure out what kinds of changes need to be made to the constitution. It already scheduled visits to Orange, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties.

As Florida Gulf Coast University begins interviewing candidates for the school’s next president this week, a state representative has proposed a bill that would exempt those applying for president, provost or dean at state colleges and universities from Florida’s broad open records laws.

Wikipedia Commons

Citizens do not have the right to speak before a public board or commission takes official action, according to Florida’s Constitution. Though Florida citizens have a right to access public records and meetings, they do not have a right to be heard before governmental bodies take official action any given proposal.  This means that city council members, county commissioners and other officials could vote on issues without letting citizens have their say.  

rows of public records
Wikipedia Commons / WLRN

The Florida Public Records Act, also known as F.S. 119, is straightforward:  All state, county and municipal records are open for personal inspection and copying by any person. And it is the duty of each agency to provide you with access to public records.

Photo courtesy of the governor's office

Florida taxpayers have spent $5 million on a budget transparency portal called Transparency 2.0 that promised to herald a new era for citizen access to the state’s informational stores.

Currently, questions remain as to whether the public will ever be able to use the program, which is ready to go but has sat unused for a year and a half.