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

July 2, 2015 9:26 AM

If there's something you want to know and it's considered public record, getting the information is now easier and cheaper than ever.

Significant revisions to Michigan's Freedom of Information Act went into full effect today.  Continue>>>


June 24, 2015 1:57 PM

The buzzword of the moment among local leaders is “open government,” and chief information officers are attempting to make the hype a reality. In the Center for Digital Government’s 2014 Digital Cities and Counties surveys, one of the top priorities for CIOs at the local level was “open government/transparency/open data.”

Yet, despite the strategic focus on open data, a recent Pew survey on views about open government found that only 7 percent of Americans think local governments share data effectively.  Continue>>>


June 22, 2015 8:43 AM

Rights to personal privacy and government access soon may be added to the Wyoming Constitution.

Lawmakers meeting at the Capitol on Wednesday voted to have staff members draft a proposed constitutional amendment that guarantees residents a “right to individual privacy” and a “right to know” about public business.

The move comes after the Legislature rejected a bill earlier this year that would have asked voters to approve the privacy amendment without open government protections.  Continue>>>


June 18, 2015 9:26 AM

RICHMOND — A Daily Press push to open local government discussions about the performance of leaders was rejected Wednesday by a state panel studying Virginia's open meetings laws.

The proposal would have required the annual reviews of city managers, county administrators and school superintendents — as well as conversations about discipline, firings or raises for these local government CEOs — to be held in public. Current law allows public bodies to hold those conversations in closed session, then vote in open session with little to no public explanation.  Continue>>>


June 16, 2015 2:18 PM

Join Third Way and Democracy Journal on Friday, June 19th for a lunch discussion on government transparency and public trust.  The event will kick off with a keynote address on current efforts to use transparency to increase trust in government in the U.S. and then present the findings of an innovative taxpayer receipt experiment in the United Kingdom.  It will close with a discussion by leading academics and practitioners on opportunities to build trust in government and citizen engagement among American voters - and the hurdles that may stand in the way.  Continue>>>


June 12, 2015 8:45 AM

SANTA MONICA—On June 9, the City of Santa Monica won a Technology Solutions award from the Public Technology Institute for its Open Data Initiative.

The annual PTI Technology Solutions Awards recognize excellence in local governments’ use of technology to, in their own words, “solve specific problems, improve community services and internal operations, and reduce costs.” This year, Santa Monica’s Open Data Initiative, with its mission statement of “Transparency, Collaboration and Third Party Applications Through Open Data,” was honored in the category of Data & Performance Metrics.  Continue>>>


June 11, 2015 2:45 PM

Everybody says they're for transparency in government these days.

And most seem to believe the Commonwealth Court's 4-3 decision Wednesday limiting the governor's ability to change executive director's in the state Office of Open Records in mid-term as a good step for that cause.

The court's majority reversed Gov. Tom Wolf's January dismissal of the newly-installed director, Erik Arneson, as a violation of legislative intent to protect the office from at-will hirings or firings.  Continue>>>


June 11, 2015 2:33 PM

A legislative session that was most notable for how little it accomplished followed suit on issues regarding open, transparent government.

In what should be considered a victory, a new South Carolina law will do what many thought was already called for and had thus been doing for years. It requires public bodies to have agendas. Further, the agenda may be changed only with proof of emergency circumstances and two thirds of the body agreeing to the changes.

Many public bodies were surprised when the S.C. Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that those bodies didn’t need to announce agendas in advance of public meetings. It was an unfortunate recognition of a shortcoming in the state’s Freedom of Information Act.  Continue>>>


June 9, 2015 8:27 AM

When she testified at a hearing last month in favor of making police body-worn camera videos accessible to the public, the District’s chief open government advocate, Traci Hughes, suggested the police department’s reasoning for limiting access to the footage was flawed.

While Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier has said that editing the footage to make necessary redactions would be too labor-intensive for her department — and, as a result, no videos should be released to the public — Ms. Hughes noted that low-cost video-editing technology is so prevalent that the Metropolitan Police Department “will be hard-pressed to assert it does not have access to the very same technology." Continue>>>


June 8, 2015 12:09 PM

Since the United States joined the Open Government Partnership in 2011, U.S. agencies have been working alongside civil society to develop and implement commitments to increase transparency, improve participation, and curb corruption. From opening up Federal spending data to make it easier to see how taxpayer dollars are spent, to the We the People online petition site where the public can propose U.S. policy changes, to strengthening efforts to deny safe haven in the U.S. to corrupt individuals, our efforts to advance open government are making an impact.

Consistent with the commitment to the Open Government Partnership, later this year the United States plans to publish a third Open Government National Action Plan (NAP) including new and expanded open government initiatives to pursue in the next two years. The first U.S. NAP was published in 2011 and the second NAP — which is still being implemented through the end of 2015 — was published in 2013.

These plans are a true team effort — governments work alongside civil society in all 65 OGP countries to develop and implement the efforts within the plans. Over the next several months, we encourage you to contribute your ideas and work with us to build an ambitious third NAP!  Continue>>>


June 4, 2015 12:13 PM

The Coalition Wednesday (3) wrote Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (also the other Members and the Mayor), asking that a section of the massive budget support bill for the coming year be dropped before the upcoming final vote for lack of any public input.

The Coalition said a provision exempting teacher evaluation records, held by the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE), from the D.C. public records law, though passed before in temporary form, has never been aired for full review at hearings. Permanent changes in the D.C. open records law, said the Coalition letter, should be made only after close public scrutiny, including the advice of the District’s transparency experts in the Office of Open Government.

Coalition president Kevin Goldberg noted OSSE had never been asked to demonstrate the need for a blanket objection (especially since existing FOIA exemptions assure protection against needless invasions of privacy) or to deal with other potential objections by the public, press or researchers to withdrawing records of one of the District’s largest and most controversial policy areas—teacher quality in the schools. Continue>>>


June 3, 2015 2:40 PM

AUSTIN - A measure that would make private university police reports subject to Texas' open-government laws was one of a number of transparency measures approved by the Legislature this session.

Senate Bill 308, authored by Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, was filed in response to a student who was fatally shot by University of Incarnate Word police officers in San Antonio, and another incident at Rice University.

Those police departments refused to give up records because, as private universities, they were not subject to the state's open records law.  Continue>>>


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