SOW 6235/4233: Social Welfare Policy/Program

Finding Florida Legislation

Trying to find legislative intent for Florida legislation can be difficult. More publishers track the U.S. Congress than the Florida legislature. Do not expect to find a wealth of material readily available. 

In Florida, legislature works very similarly to Congress. A Senator or Representative draws up the language or text of the bill. After a bill has been introduced/read the first time, it is assigned to a committee. The committee analyzes the proposed legislation, often conducting hearings to obtain information about the subject that the bill addresses. Once the committee has considered the pending law, it prepares a report, called a STAFF or BILL ANALYSIS. This document is one of the most important documents in Florida legislation and legislative intent. A staff analysis will usually describe the language of the bill and the differences between existing legislation and this new version. It will also discuss any economic impact that the proposed legislation will have.  

As with federal legislation, you will want to use secondary sources to find information about the legislation. This may help determine legislative intent and give specifics about the legislation (e.g. bill number). 

Finding the Bill Number

Typically, when beginning legislative history research you will start with a statute number.  But the legislative history documents are typically organized by bill number.  In order to convert your statute number to a bill number:

(1) Look at the history or credit section at the bottom of the text of the statute. The numbers in the credit section identify the enacting session law for the staute and any amendments to the stautute.  An example session law number is c. 99-101 s. 2.  Each session law number has a corresponding bill number and you will need to decide which session laws/bills you want to research. Sometimes you want to look at the enacting law and all the amendments but sometimes you know a specific year and amendment that you need to research. 

(2)  If you are in Westlaw and the session law has a hyperlink - click on it to see the text of the session law which also include a bill number in the heading information.  A sample house bill number is HB No. 1051 and a senate bill is S.B. 1045.  

(3) If you are in Westlaw and the session law is NOT hyperlinked or if you are using online sunshine or print versions of the statutes you will have to look up the session law number either in print, using HeinOnline, on Laws of Florida (1997-current), or using a session law to bill number conversion table found within the Florida Statutes or the most recent edition online.

Legislation prior to 1998

For legislation passed prior to 1998, you will need to use the House and Senate Journals. This is the record of actions on floor of the Florida House and Senate, including votes. The Journals do not incude bill analysis, unless it is part of the floor debate. Check out news and magazine archives to try and peice together legislative intent. 

It is critical to have a bill number to search the Journals. Try searching news sources or Googling to find a bill number. 

With the bill number, you then search the numeric index by bill number for the senate journal for the year the bill was passed. The numeric index will provide you with which pages the journal for that year there was some kind of floor action, whether it was debate, introduction, vote etc. Look up the page number in the correct session to find the text of the floor action. 

Remember that the House and Senate journals are not like the Congressional Record, where everything is recorded verbatium. But you shoudl be able to piece it togeth