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Reporter’s Handbook – Governmental Access and Internet Resources

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Governmental Access and Internet Resources
By Linda Carol
(Updated by Nadia B. Ahmad)

Florida law granting open access to governmental information is essentially “access upon demand.” The journalist’s challenge, though, is to locate reliable and accurate information in an efficient manner. Developing a sufficient working knowledge of governmental entities, statutes and rules, procedures that overlay the particular subject matter, and an awareness of interplay between various entities that together control the outcome of each matter presents further challenges. Without the journalists understanding the nuances of law and government, the public will receive stories that overlook vital analysis and omit relevant details, an entirely preventable outcome because of available internet resources relating to governmental information.

This chapter seeks to maximize speedy and efficient access to Florida’s governmental bodies by listing some key websites and points of contact as a place to begin inquiry. Navigating through governmental operations and processes can seem like an overwhelming task, but a little “surfing” in advance plus posing questions to governmental staff and other members will reward a journalist with the best possible access.

A great starting place for governmental access is This homepage offers a multitude of information portals. There are special sections addressing Florida Visitors; “Floridian” information informing residents; Government, linking to all branches of government: State, counties, municipalities, districts and boards, U.S. government links; and Business, offering specialized links. Surfing this site thoroughly will be time well-spent, and you will be amazed at the myriad resources at your fingertips.

Here is an alphabetical list of some other favorites:

Administrative Hearings
Attorneys anywhere in U.S., Canada
Attorneys in Florida
Attorney General Opinions (AGOs)
Dictionary – Legal
Decode acronyms; do reverse lookup
Online dictionaries
Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary
Corporation Filings
Criminal Background Checks
Day Care Licensing Files
Death and other Certificates
Driver License and History Records
Embassy – U.S.
Americans abroad directory
Findlaw – Comprehensive Legal Website
Fla. Administrative Code
Fla. Bar
Fla. Commission on Ethics
Fla. Dept. of Economic Opportunity
Fla. Dept. of Corrections
Fla. Dept. of Law Enforcement
Fla. Dept. of State, Div. of Corporations
Forms, filing info., name availability
Fla. Government Info Locator
State Library/Archives/Records:
Tourism, Education/History, Culture
Fla. House/Senate Bills – Statutes
Fla. Law Online
Fla. Law Weekly
Fla. League of Cities
Fla. Missing Children Info. Clearinghouse
Fla. Most Wanted List
Fla. Newspapers
Fla. Secretary of State, Div. of Corporations
Fla. Contracts
Fla. Statutes
Fla. Supreme Court, lower courts
Briefs, opinions
Fla. Water Management Districts

First Amendment
The Freedom Forum 1st Am. Ctr.
Student Press Law Center
Freedom of Information Act (FOI Act)
Brechner Center for FOI
Electronic Frontier Foundation
National FOI Coalition
Reporters Comm. for
Freedom of the Press
Society of Professional Journalists
Investigative Reporters & Editors
Internet Legal Research Group

Law School Libraries

Legal Citation
Legal News
Lobbyist Registration & Expenditure Records
Municipal Code Corp.
Professional Disciplinary Reports
(chiropractors, dentists, podiatrists, physicians)
Public Service Commission
Regional Planning Councils
Robert’s Rules of Order, Local Search Engines
Sexual Offender and Predator Database
U.S. Code
U.S. Code of Federal Regulations
U.S. Congressional/Library of Congress
U.S. Senate
U.S. House of Reps.
U.S. Dept. of Labor/Bureau of Labor Stat.
U.S. Government Information
Global info
U.S. Supreme Court
Court decisions
U.S. Court of Appeals, 11th Cir.
Alabama, Florida and Georgia

One of the most exciting websites is, the Florida Department of State, Division of Library and Information Services. You can revisit Florida history at the State photo archives with thousands of images that may be viewed and used to accompany your journalistic efforts.

Online Sunshine is located at, and is the home of “Online Sunshine,” the portal to the Florida Legislature, Senators and Representatives. The website includes information about both houses and contacts to all of the legislators, bills that are current or were previously filed, enacted statutes, the Florida Constitution, and lobbying. If you would like further information or updates, or desire personal contact, please telephone the Clerk of the House of Representatives at (850) 488-1157, or the Secretary of the Senate at (850) 487-5270.

The Internet site for the judicial branch is, and will take you to all Florida State Courts with websites. The Links page is an excellent starting point for Florida-specific legal research; federal, state and local government links; professional associations; and other general and miscellaneous resources. The Florida courts are structured with the Florida Supreme Court as the highest court in the State, with five District Courts of Appeal under the Florida Supreme Court, Judicial Circuit Courts below that are each responsible for several counties, and 67 corresponding County Courts.

Please THE FLORIDA BAR for additional helpful information. Call the Public Information & Bar Services Department at (850) 561-5666, or visit the website at

Authored by the Media & Communications Law Committee, the handbook serves as a resource guide for members of the media about topics in the legal profession.

[Revised: 2013]