FOI Advocate Blog

The NFOIC open government blog is a compendium of original concepts and analysis as well as ideas, edited excerpts and materials from a variety of sources. When the information comes from another source, we will attribute it and provide a link. The blog relies on the accuracy and integrity of the original sources cited; we will correct errors and inaccuracies when we become aware of them.

For Advocate posts prior to July, 2011, visit

August 3, 2015 11:26 AM

WASHINGTON -- The Medicaid program would benefit from increased transparency, better beneficiary access to specialty and dental care, and automatic assistance from the federal government during economic downturns, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

"The size, growth, and diversity of the Medicaid program create significant challenges for oversight," the GAO wrote in a 91-page report issued Thursday on the challenges facing the program. "There is an inherent tension between states' efforts to design programs that best meet their local needs and federal efforts to oversee the states' programs.   Continue>>>


July 31, 2015 9:43 AM

Here is the story of one Afghanistan War disabled veteran who did not back down when VA VocRehab employees unlawfully withheld his VocRehab records from him following a benefits denial.

Disabled veteran Joe Roth first received a denial for VocRehab retraining at the end of last year. When he tried to fight back, poorly trained VA employees unlawfully concluded his records were the VA property and that they could be withheld.  Continue>>>


July 31, 2015 9:30 AM

This spring, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton came under fire when the State Department disclosed her exclusive use of a personal email server during her time as Secretary of State.

This raised major transparency concerns because she used a private account and her email correspondence was not available for production when the State Department received Freedom of Information Act requests. The State Department is now in the process of reviewing and producing the roughly 55,000 pages of email Clinton and her staff determined should be turned over to it – and those may even be incomplete.  Continue>>>


July 31, 2015 9:15 AM

Today we filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Justice Department over their unpublished rules for using National Security Letters and so-called informal “exigent letters” to conduct surveillance of journalists.

Last year, after a backlash stemming from the surveillance of Associated Press and Fox News journalists, the Justice Department released new guidelines that supposedly barred the government from issuing subpoenas to journalists unless very high standards were met. The rules were generally a victory for the press. Continue>>>


July 30, 2015 3:27 PM

Governor Charlie Baker unveiled sweeping new rules Thursday for how the executive branch will handle public records requests. Previously, every agency had its own procedure for handling requests.

The move comes as several state agencies have come under fire for the way they handle requests.  Continue>>>


July 30, 2015 10:35 AM

The majority of open data portals online today are confined to information from a single city government or political jurisdiction.  For researchers, policymakers, or other data portal users, this can create problems: we know that urban landscapes are complex, interconnected places that do not exist within the bounds of a single government entity.  What if, say, I want to see a map of recent traffic accidents in Manhattan, and understand if weather conditions have an effect?  Or what if I want to see if there’s a connection in Chicago between sanitation complaints and environmental inspections?

Finding the answers to such questions is not an easy one; it would require looking at datasets from the City of New York and NOAA, and the City of Chicago and Cook County, respectively.  Each question requires an awkward compare-and-contrast between data from separate government portals.  What’s a researcher to do?  Continue>>>


July 30, 2015 10:26 AM

The first day of testimony began on Wednesday in a trial to decide whether the Sumner County Board of Education violated the Tennessee Public Records Act by not responding to a Joelton man’s email request.

Ken Jakes filed a lawsuit in Sumner County Chancery Court in April 2014 challenging the school board’s policy requiring a citizen wanting to inspect a public document to submit the request in person or via U.S. mail rather than email.  Continue>>>


July 29, 2015 12:47 PM

Attorney General Brad Schimel began his first meeting on open government issues by addressing the "elephant in the room."

"Messing with open government laws is like touching the third rail," Schimel told a crowd of more than 100 on Wednesday morning at the Madison Concourse Hotel. "I think that experience ... well, it's been learned recently."  Continue>>>


July 29, 2015 12:37 PM

Registration is now open for FAF's Fall Sunshine Seminars! Continue>>>


July 29, 2015 12:33 PM

RALEIGH — A bill that would allow quicker changes to North Carolina's execution process and block information about the manufacturing of lethal injection drugs has passed the legislature and is going to the governor.

The House on Wednesday agreed with changes made by the Senate earlier this week allowing parts of the law to stand if one portion is struck down in court. Lawmakers supporting the bill say they expect lengthy legal challenges.  Continue>>>


July 28, 2015 12:21 PM

As a part of the United States’ Second Open Government National Action Plan commitment to further modernize FOIA, in 2014 OIP launched the Best Practices Workshop series as a way to share and leverage successes in FOIA administration across the government. Today we are announcing details for the second slate of topics and workshops in this series.

Each workshop in the series focuses on a specific topical area and will include a panel of representatives that will share their success stories and strategies. For example, some of the topics covered in the first series of workshops included panels on reducing backlogs, proactive disclosures, and implementing technology in FOIA administration. Continue>>>


July 28, 2015 10:44 AM

Here's something that ought to earn the Sunlight Foundation several shots of Pappy Van Winkle: a new open data tool that makes it easier than ever to have a look at the inner workings of Pennsylvania's state legislature.

Open States aggregates all the legislative data pertaining to the Pennsylvania General Assembly, including the nearly 3,000 bills that have been introduced so far — and the 47 bills that have been approved by Governor Tom Wolf — in this year's regular session.  Continue>>>


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