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Florida statutory and legislative materials are online

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Florida statutory and legislative materials are online

M any people know they can access the Florida statutes and constitution online at Online Sunshine ( www.leg.state.fl.us ). But, there is so much more out there.

If you haven’t been checking out Florida’s legislative websites, you have been missing out. Before digging in, keep in mind that 1998 is a key date for online materials in Florida. Basically, if it’s available online, it is available from 1998 to the present. If you need something before 1998, then you will probably need to use a commercial database, print, or, in some cases, call the State Archives.

Bills are a great resource for arguing intent of a statute. The mere changing of a word can significantly change the meaning behind a law. If you need the original text of a bill, or, one of its many incarnations before passing into law, check the Florida Senate website at www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bills or Florida House of Representatives website at www.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Bills/bills.aspx. Both provide access to bills from 1998 to the present. The Florida Senate website provides access from the present back to 2010 and the Florida Senate Archives website ( http://archive.flsenate.gov ) provides access from 1998 through 2010.

Final Legislative Bill Information is the title for the print volume that provides the summaries and histories for bills. Here is where to find the date of introduction and various actions taken, summary of the bill, who sponsored the bill, and any companion bills. This same information can also be found online at Online Sunshine under the “Citator” link. The “Citator” can be found at http://billinfo.leg.state.fl.us. Select the year of the bill and this will bring up links for finding the information listed above. Information is available for bills from 1998 to the present.

Staff Analysis, the most important and most requested information in legislative history research. These reports, created by Florida House and Senate committees, describe the language of the bill and potential economic impact. These have only been archived since 1969 and coverage isn’t complete before the mid-’70s. But, you can access them online from 1998 through the present on both the Florida Senate and Florida House of Representatives websites. Simply run a search for the bill number from the main page and click the link to the bill. Links for any available staff analyses will be listed along with bill history, bill texts, related bills, and citations. Again, the Florida Senate Archives website will have to be used for 1998 through 2010.

Annotated Statutes are a great resource for finding cases that address a statute. And, Fastcase has recently started offering annotated statutes. Fastcase is the commercial legal research database provided to members of The Florida Bar as part of their membership benefits. Not all state statutes have been annotated yet, but Florida has. So, if you need to find cases that have cited to a Florida statute, run a search in Fastcase. Florida statutes are available from 2007 to the present. They can be searched or browsed. And, annotations can be found at the end of the statute. Fastcase can be accessed using your member login via The Florida Bar website at www.floridabar.org. The link for Fastcase is located in the “What Do You Want to Do?” box.

Legislative Glossary. Both the Florida Senate and Florida House of Representatives websites have an online glossary of legislative terms. The Senate’s is simply called “Glossary” and can be found under the “Reference” link at www.flsenate.gov/Reference/Glossary. The House’s is called “Language of Lawmaking” and can be found under the “Public Guide” link at www.myfloridahouse.gov/FileStores/Web/HouseContent/Approved/ClerksOffice/LanguageofLawmaking.pdf. While you are on these pages, take some time to explore the other offerings. There are links for manuals, important dates, FAQ’s, procedures, and a plethora of other useful information.

Statute/Constitution Citations, is helpful when trying to find statutes or sections of the Florida Constitution that have been mentioned in a bill. This can be found on Online Sunshine under the “Citator” link at http://billinfo.leg.state.fl.us. Simply select the year of interest and click the “Statute/Constitution Citations” link. This will open a document listing, in chapter order, the statutes mentioned in the final passed bill along with the bill number. Constitution citations are listed after the statutes and are listed in order by article number.

Committee Hearing Audio and Video is a recent online offering. Before, to hear committee discussions about a bill, a request had to be made to the State Archives for an audio recording of the meeting. However, committees are starting to stream their meetings online and maintain an archive of prior footage and audio. These can be found by going to the Florida House of Representatives website at www.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Committees/committees.aspx and choosing the committee of interest. On the committee’s webpage there is a box for Video Archives with links to the videos. Videos and audio for Florida Senate committees are also available. Simply go to the Florida Senate website at www.flsenate.gov/Committees and select the desired committee. Links for audio and video can be found under meeting records. Both websites seem to have coverage from 2012 to the present.

Florida Senate Journal and Florida House of Representatives Journal are produced daily when in session. The journals report voting records, text of any amendments, committee actions, and governor’s statements. The bound volumes are not released until after the session, but they can be found online from 1998 to the present. The House journals can be found on the Florida House of Representatives website under the “Documents” link at http://www.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Documents/publications.aspx. The Senate journals can be found on the Florida Senate website at www.flsenate.gov/Session/Journals. The Senate Archives website has journals as far back as the 1830s.

This resource aid was compiled by Florida Bar member Kristen R. Moore, a librarian at Stetson University College of Law.

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