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 http://foiadvocate.blogspot.com/.
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July 15, 2015 11:17 AM

A good-government bill inspired by the Oakwood Hills Village Board’s closed-session handling of a power plant proposal is awaiting action by Gov. Bruce Rauner.

House Bill 175, which will give people a larger window to report potential violations of the Illinois Open Meetings Act to the Illinois Attorney General’s public-access office, was sent to Rauner’s desk at the end of June, about a month after it unanimously cleared the House and Senate.  Continue>>>

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July 9, 2015 9:17 AM

The New Jersey Foundation for Open Government (NJFOG) on May 29 filed suit in Union County Superior Court against the Summit Housing Authority and its Custodian of Records alleging violations of the Open Public Records Act (OPRA) and Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA).

A hearing to address the OPRA counts in the case (Docket No. UNN-L-1927-15) is scheduled for July 10 at 10:00 a.m. before Judge James Hely, J.S.C.  OPMA counts will be addressed at a later date.  Continue>>>

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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>>>

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June 17, 2015 12:38 PM

AUGUSTA — Legislative leaders on both sides of the political aisle Tuesday defended a $6.7 billion state budget and tax bill crafted largely in secret negotiations between party leaders, saying they ran out of time to follow a more public process.

Changes to a budget bill that was previously approved on a 9-4 bipartisan vote of the Legislature's budget-writing Appropriations Committee came in the form of a series of amendments, including one that dramatically revamps the state's tax policy.  Continue>>>

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June 17, 2015 12:07 PM

HELENA, Mont. - Directors at six state agencies say they'll be ready to record their meetings when new transparency laws requiring them to do so take effect this year.

Five agencies must make video or audio recordings of their meetings available online or on television within one working day beginning July 1. They include the Board of Public Education, Board of Investments, teachers' and public employees' retirement boards and the Board of Regents.

The Board of Pardons and Parole's deadline is in October under a different law that came with funding and no deadline to publish the records.  Continue>>>

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June 4, 2015 10:04 AM

MONTGOMERY - The Alabama House on Tuesday passed legislation to tighten the state law requiring city councils, county commissions and other governing bodies to meet in public.

The bill, which passed 91-4, would prohibit boards and committees from holding a series of meetings of a few members behind closed doors.

The legislation aims to remove a loophole in legislation approved in 2005 that allows a sub-quorum of two or more members of a board to hold secret meetings.  Continue>>>

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March 27, 2015 8:06 AM
At a Wednesday afternoon hearing, Sussex County Circuit Court Chief Judge W. Allan Sharrett found that Waverly’s mayor and town clerk had knowingly violated the state’s Freedom of Information Act and failed to comply with a provision of the state’s open meetings law.
 
He ordered the town to pay legal fees, imposed suspended fines on town officials and more. C. Taylor Everett, a resident who had repeatedly asked the town to produce public documents and notify him of upcoming meetings, brought the legal challenge. A provision of state law requires public bodies such as town councils to provide notice of upcoming meetings to anyone who requests it. Continue...>>>
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March 24, 2015 9:10 AM
Five years ago, the Northwest Herald began an ongoing series called “No More Excuses” to badger and shame local governments into compliance with new and much stronger open-government laws.
 
Timed to coincide with the national observance of Sunshine Week in mid-March, the series also coincided with new laws that not only strengthened the state’s Freedom of Information and Open Meetings acts, but also gave the Attorney General Public Access Counselor the power to enforce them upon recalcitrant local governments. The newspaper decided that the time for excuses for not being transparent in an information age was over and that Illinois governments needed to be brought, kicking and screaming if necessary, into modern times.
 
Sunshine laws do not limit what governments can release to or discuss in front of the public – they limit what the government can conceal from them. Continue>>>
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March 19, 2015 10:18 PM

Sunshine Sunday kicks off Sunshine Week in the Sunshine State. That should produce enough glare to require sunglasses as politicians boast about their open meetings, accessible records and public debates. Then why so many dark clouds on the horizon?

The concept of government in the sunshine is straightforward. Every public agency has to open nearly all of its meetings, allow relevant documents to be examined and copied, and let citizens hear the debate that informs important decisions, especially when tax dollars are at stake.

And there is a solid rationale for such laws. Experience teaches that people in power behave better when we keep an eye on them. Continue>>>
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March 9, 2015 1:03 PM

Almost seven weeks into the legislative session, no fewer than 25 bills have been introduced that would affect open meetings, open records or public notice advertising in Iowa.

The bill that has received the most attention is one being fast-tracked that would seal data on Iowa's concealed weapons permit holders. But other bills are lurking in the wings that also would erode openness in our state's government.

Among them:

House study bill 162 would allow anyone to file a written request to prohibit their name, address and telephone number from being accessed on county Internet sites.
Senate file 385 would expand confidentiality of court records, allowing for the expungement of not-guilty verdicts and dismissed criminal charges.
Senate file 292 would make confidential certain juvenile court records.
House study bill 167 would seal records of applications to erect cell phone towers and infrastructure. Continue>>>
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December 22, 2014 3:10 PM
The Texas attorney general’s office has intervened to force Prime Prep Academy to release public documents it has withheld from The Dallas Morning News for months.
 
The troubled charter school had 10 business days to provide all the documents to the attorney general, but it appears Prime Prep will miss that Friday deadline. Edwin Flores, the school’s attorney in this matter, said he forwarded all documents he’s received, but some still haven’t been produced by administrators.
 
The information requested from Prime Prep included noncontroversial documents that are routinely released by local governments, which have 10 business days to produce them. Those documents requested included a full copy of the school’s budget, board meeting minutes, a campus lease and a copy of a recent lawsuit settlement. Continue>>>
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December 12, 2014 9:09 AM

Of the 28 official Danville boards and commissions listed on the city’s website, about half of them hold meetings during work-day hours — while open to the public, most people with daytime jobs would find them difficult to attend.
Megan Rhyne, executive director of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government, said while her organization does not have a “best practices” stance on what time government bodies should hold their meetings at the most convenient times possible for the largest number of people.

“In today’s working world, [working] 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. is not the norm, as it was 25 years ago,” Rhyne said, noting that many companies offer flex time and other schedule options to its employees. “But you do want to schedule meetings when most people could attend them.” Continue>>>
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