Florida Administrative Law Research

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Many Florida laws require state agencies to adopt rules implementing their provisions. This guide will tell you how to locate regulations in the Florida Administrative Code [FAC] and how to find other associated materials. It also addresses how to find state administrative adjudications.

General Guides

If you are unfamiliar with Florida administrative law, you may want to start with a general discussion of this area of law. There are several specific to Florida which may be of help, including Florida Administrative Practice (FL Collection KFF440 .F55 2004 & Lexis), and the Administrative Law section of the Florida Jurisprudence 2d (FL Collection, Reference Collection, & Westlaw).

The Florida Administrative Code

The print version of the FAC is a looseleaf publication that is updated monthly by adding or replacing pages. This is a large multi-volume found in the Florida Collection. The F lorida Department of State makes the FAC available on the Internet at https://www.flrules.org/Default.asp. The FAC may also be found in both Lexis and Westlaw. The print version is the only official one.

Regulations - How to Find a Particular Rule

Finding a rule that implements a Florida statute often can be a challenge. Like its federal counterpart, the FAC is organized by title with each number representing a department, commission, or other agency. FAC Rule IS-1.001 lists the assigned numbers and explains how the system works.

Indexing is not one of the FAC's strengths. There is a topical index and a statutory cross-reference volume. The latter tool lets a user find a regulation if he or she knows the statutory provision that authorized the adoption of a particular provision. Using the topical index can often be frustrating because listed regulations may not be located where the index states. At this juncture a user should consult the List of Repealed Rules and the List of Transferred Provisions volumes to find out what has happened to a particular provision. In addition, a particular FAC title may have its own index. Browsing the Table of Contents in the appropriate title can also help locate the appropriate provision.

If the citation of a particular rule is unknown, it is often quicker to consult the Florida Statutes Annotated or Florida Jurisprudence 2d to find a reference to the provision in the FAC. If a particular statutory provision is entered in Westlaw, the left-hand frame provides links to regulations promulgated pursuant to this provision. In utilizing Lexis or Westlaw to locate this information be aware that the sentence and paragraph connectors do not work well for searching regulatory text. Rules are drafted much like statutes and the number connector works best.

Text of the FAC

Beside the language of each section, the FAC text includes a history note labeled "Specific Authority." This will indicate the statutory provision authorizing the rule and history on whether the rule has been modified, renumbered, or repealed. Selected case annotations may also be included. Pages have notations in the top right hand corner on either the front or the back indicating when the page was last revised.

Researching the History of a Rule

Often research requires that you learn more about the policy behind the adoption of the regulation. Below the text of the rule is a history of the dates of adoption and amendment of the regulation. These dates will allow you to conduct additional research in the Florida Administrative Weekly [FAW].

The Florida Administrative Weekly

The FAW is the state analog to the Federal Register and serves as a weekly accounting of agency activities for the state of Florida. It is published every Friday. All notices/proposals for new rules and amendments to existing regulations must be published in the FAW as part of the promulgation process.

The FAW is the only Florida source for the history or intent behind regulations. Since the FAC is a looseleaf publication, historical versions of regulations are difficult to find because the older version is replaced once a newer rule is promulgated. Therefore the FAW is the mechanism for examining the language of a regulation as it stood in a particular year.

Finding a rule's history in the FAW is also the mechanism for understanding the policy rationale behind a particular regulation. Proposed rules will have preambles explaining the rationale behind an administrative regulation. This preamble is often the only source for determining the regulatory intent behind the rule. Because of a quirk in Florida administrative law, the full text of a regulation may only be published in the FAW at the time that the rule is proposed. If no changes to the proposed language are made when the regulation is promulgated then the text is not reprinted. However, if an agency amends the language prior to promulgation, then the text is republished with the changes incorporated.

In addition, each issue of the FAW may contain: (1) notices of development of proposed rules and negotiated rulemakings; (2) notices of changes, corrections and withdrawals; (3) emergency rules; (4) petitions and dispositions regarding variances or waivers; (5) notices of meetings, workshops, and public hearings; (6) notices of petitions and dispositions regarding declaratory statements; (7) notices of petitions and dispositions regarding rule validity; (8) notices of petitions and dispositions regarding policy changes; (9) announcements and reports of the Joint Administrative Procedures Committee; (10) notices regarding bids, proposals and purchasing; (11) other miscellaneous matters and (12) the index to rules filed during the preceding week. In addition, the first issue of each month supplies a cumulative LIST OF SECTIONS AFFECTED table that tracks the changes pending to regulations for the previous eight weeks. These tables refer the researcher to the volume and page of the FAW where the changes were published.

The FAW is freely available online in two places. All FAW issues from January 1, 2006 are searchable simultaneously at the new state site at https://www.flrules.org/Default.asp. Individual items in weekly issues may be retrieved online from January 1, 1999 forward at https://www.flrules.org/bigdoc/default.asp. These are PDF files and can be searched using the PDF search feature to locate material in a particular issue. The FAW is also available in Lexis for full-text searching from January of 1996 to the present.

The full-text searching feature at https://www.flrules.org/Default.asp, is also very useful in locating materials in the FAW. If a query is entered, a user will locate both the proposed rulemaking notices and the promulgated rule for actions taken after January 1, 2006. This is a very efficient way to do a search for rules on a particular topic because it searches both the FAW and the FAC simultaneously. This Web site also allows you to search for regulations by entering a statutory provision that would authorize rules on a particular subject. And do remember that this is a free resource.

Updating Rules in Print and Online

Just like cases and statutes, regulations must be updated to determine if the agency has changed a particular provision. The process for updating a regulation in print begins with checking the first page in the first volume of the FAC to determine when it was last updated. Next consult the List of Rules Affected that appears monthly in the first FAW after the FAC update; this list will contain a notation reflecting the time period covered. Next you must continue to check this list for each month thereafter until you are current. The most recent issues for the current month have tables that contain changes filed the previous week. Then check each week's tables to assure yourself that no updates or changes have been made.

The FAC may also be updated online. The online Administrative Code is updated much more speedily than the print version. The system works much like the federal e-CFR. The FAW is published weekly on Friday; the electronic version of the Administrative Code at the Department of State site incorporates changes in the text of a rule by close of business the following Monday. This makes it truly easy to update a regulation. Of course this process must be supplemented with a search of the case law and administrative adjudications to determine how courts and adjudicatory bodies have construed the regulation.

Finding Florida Administrative Cases

Florida Administrative Law Reporter (FALR) contains administrative decisions from multiple agencies. Several agencies produce their own individual reporters, but the FALR reports the decisions of several agencies - as well as the Department of Administrative Hearings (DOAH). In addition, specialized editions of the FALR deal with specific substantive areas like the environment or tax. This set is currently not available in either Lexis or Westlaw. The indexes are quarterly and periodically cumulate into "supercumulative" indexes. The indexing is awkward and inconsistent, so be prepared to try multiple terms and to check more than one area of the index. However, Lexis and Westlaw contain DOAH databases dating back to 1975. In addition, the DOAH decisions and orders are available online at http://www.doah.state.fl.us/ALJ/.

Other online databases exist for Florida administrative decisions. Lexis and Westlaw both have databases covering attorney general opinions, taxation decisions and securities determinations. Lexis also has individual files covering the Public Utilities Commission and Workers' Compensation Decisions. Westlaw has an individual database on Environmental Law Administrative Decisions. To obtain information about a specific agency and its decisions, you can access the agency's website. Most Florida State agencies have informative web sites and many include decisions and documents. The Florida Government Locator is very useful in locating Florida agency websites.

Related Web Sites

FL Administrative Code
FL Administrative Weekly (searchable)
FL Administrative Weekly (browsable)
FL Department of Administrative Hearings
FL Government Locator
Other States' Administrative Codes

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