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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September 15, 2017 11:56 AM

 

 

 

 

News Release

September 15, 2017                                                                                                              Contact: Lara Dieringer

573.882.4856 • ldieringer@nfoic.org

Jennifer Royer

317.361.4134 • jroyer@spj.org

 

“Skillful” First Amendment attorney from Iowa is 2017 Inductee to the

State Open Government Hall of Fame

 

Michael Giudicessi, a partner in the Des Moines office of Faegre Baker Daniels LLP was selected as the 2017 inductee into the “Heroes of the 50 States: State Open Government Hall of Fame.”

Each year, the National Freedom of Information Coalition (NFOIC), in collaboration with the Society of Professional Journalists, solicits nominations for First Amendment “heroes” whose deeds, actions and achievements merit designation and induction into this institution.  The intent is to recognize individuals whose lifetime commitment to citizen access, open government and freedom of information has left a significant legacy at the state and local level. 

Mr. Giudicessi was nominated by the Iowa Freedom of Information Council. “For most of the Council’s 41-year history, Michael has been an important voice in our efforts driven by his passion for the cause of government transparency,” said Randy Evans, IFIC’s executive director. “Over that time, having the services of one of the most skillful First Amendment lawyers in the Midwest –in the courts, in our training programs, and in the halls of government-- have cost the Council exactly zero.”

A University of Missouri School of Journalism graduate and a JD degree from the University of Iowa College of Law, Giudicessi began his legal career as a staff attorney for the Des Moines Register and Tribune, later as general counsel to Palmer Communications. He continues his activism today as a senior partner in Faegre Baker Daniels’ Des Moines office and as counsel to the Iowa FOI Council.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and former executive at the Register and Tribune, Michael Gartner said Giudicessi has been a mentor to two generations of news people in Iowa teaching them the importance of the First Amendment. “As a result, Iowa’s newspapers –from the Storm Lake Times to the Register-- are led by news people who know the law and fight for it,” said Gartner.

Mr. Giudicessi’s induction will occur at NFOIC’s 2017 Freedom of Information Summit during the Hall of Fame luncheon sponsored by the Charles Koch Institute. The summit takes place October 13-14 in Nashville TN, at the First Amendment Center, Vanderbilt University.

FOI Summit sponsors include: Bloomberg LP (Platinum), Charles Koch Institute (Gold), and Official sponsors: the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, SDX Foundation of the Society of Professional Journalists, and Ethics & Excellence in Journalism Foundation. The summit co-host is the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government.

September 15, 2017 11:36 AM

 Changes are coming to Hawaii’s records and open meeting laws, affecting how people can find out about public meetings as well as how much they’ll pay for public records.

Changes to the Sunshine Law, governing public notice of meetings and meeting minutes, are legislated in Act 64, passed unanimously by the state Legislature and signed by Gov. David Ige earlier this year. It goes into effect July 1.

Also coming next year are administrative rule changes that the state Office of Information Practices is currently drafting. Read more...

September 14, 2017 1:53 PM

The latest news in Colorado transparency from NFOIC member Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition (CFOIC). Read more...

September 14, 2017 9:18 AM

 

It shouldn’t be necessary, but 10 news organizations, including The Spokesman-Review, are suing the Washington Legislature because it won’t release information that other politicians must divulge.

Under an effort spearheaded by the Associated Press earlier this year, news outlets requested copies of all 147 lawmakers’ calendars documenting their official schedules and work-related text messages.

The Legislature’s attorneys responded by saying that material didn’t qualify as “public records” under a change quietly pushed through during the 1995 legislative session. If nothing else, this stubborn stand on their claimed exemption demonstrates one thing: Legislature leaders clearly do not embrace the spirit of the voter-approved Public Disclosure Act.

That law, adopted overwhelmingly in 1972 states, in part, “full access to information concerning the conduct of government on every level must be assured as a fundamental and necessary precondition to the sound governance of a free society.”

If lawmakers agreed with that, they would release the material requested. Some lawmakers have, showing they do believe in the “transparency” mantra they all seemingly utter when they run for office. But they are the exception. The rest cling to the exemption, which will be the focus of the lawsuit. Read more

September 12, 2017 9:45 AM

Almost five and a half years ago OGIS recommended to Congress that the development of a governmentwide FOIA web portal could improve public access to government information. Now, thanks to ongoing collaboration between the Office of Management and Budget (OMB and the Office of Information Policy at the Department of Justice (DOJ) and 18F, the digital services agency within the General Services Administration, we are closer than ever to having a National FOIA Portal. 

Along with recommending the creation of the unified portal, OGIS was an early promoter of the effort to develop and expand FOIAonline, a multi-agency web platform that accepts FOIA requests, stores them in a repository for processing by agency staff, and allows an agency to post the released records in a centralized FOIA e-reading room. As we emphasized at the time, FOIAonline improved the experience for requesters, and saved taxpayers’ money by sharing agency resources and repurposing existing technology. FOIAonline also reduces the administrative burden on agencies since requester contact information is automatically stored in the system, and agencies can use the portal to communicate with the requester. Six of the 100-odd federal agencies that accept FOIA requests were a part of the FOIAonline launch, including part of the National Archives. As shown in 18F’s research while developing the National FOIA Portal, 10 percent of agencies now participate in FOIAonline, representing 17 percent of the total volume of requests processed by the federal government. Continue...

September 8, 2017 4:29 PM

The Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana today released the PAR Guide to the 2017 Constitutional Amendments. The Guide explains the potential impact of the three constitutional amendments that voters will consider on the Oct. 14 ballot statewide. This objective review will help voters understand the issues and the potential changes so they may develop their own positions on each proposition.

These amendments address how property tax assessors should deal with construction work, whether surviving spouses of some first responders should be exempt from property tax and if a special transportation fund should be created in anticipation of future new fuel tax revenue.  

"Citizens once again must decide whether to make changes to the state's fundamental law," said PAR President Robert Travis Scott. "With the PAR Guide, they can walk into the voting booth with a solid understanding of the facts and a clear appreciation of the implications of their vote."View the guide here.

>>>>

August 15, 2017 4:59 PM

The latest news in Colorado transparency from NFOIC member Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition (CFOIC). Continue...

August 14, 2017 2:43 PM
As the public, press and researchers have long requested, the trial court in Washington, D.C., has begun making court files available online. Called "eAccess" on the court home page, the new system replaces the previous Court Cases Online portal that included for each case only a list of events (called the "docket"). The new system adds access to case documents such as complaints, motions, briefs, opinions and orders.
 
Of 22 types of D.C. cases, dockets are now available in all, and records filed after last Friday, August 11, in eight. Those include major areas such as civil and criminal, as well as specialized courts such as landlord and tenant, small claims, and some probate and tax cases. No information is provided on a schedule for adding earlier records and the remaining case types.
 
Records filed earlier can be viewed at terminals and printed out in the Moultrie Courthouse, 500 Indiana Ave., N.W., Washington, DC. Continue...
August 9, 2017 11:27 AM
TOPEKA – (August 8, 2017) – Free training sessions on Kansas open government laws will be offered at five locations across the state in the coming weeks, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt and the Kansas Sunshine Coalition for Open Government announced today.
 
“Open access to the functions of government is important to self-government,” Schmidt said. “As our office investigates complaints of violations of open government laws, most often we find the violations were inadvertent and can be avoided through better education. I encourage public officials, staff, members of the media and the public to participate in these training sessions to learn more about how these laws work.” 
 
The schedule for the sessions is as follows: 
 
Friday, September 8          9 a.m. – Noon
                                          Leavenworth City Hall, City Commission Room, 100 N. 5th St., Leavenworth
 
Monday, September 11     1:30 – 4:30 p.m.
                                          Manhattan Public Library Auditorium, 629 Poyntz Ave., Manhattan
 
Tuesday, September 12     1:30 – 4:30 p.m.
                                          Hays Public Library Auditorium, 1205 Main St., Hays
 
Thursday, September 14   1:30 – 4:30 p.m.
                                          Bradford Memorial Library, 611 S. Washington St., El Dorado
 
Friday, October 6              9 a.m. – Noon 
                                         Memorial Hall Auditorium, 120 SW 10th Ave., Topeka
 
These seminars are free and open to the public. Space at each location is limited, and registration is on a first-come, first-served basis. Participants can register on the Kansas Attorney General’s website, www.ag.ks.gov/open-gov, or by calling (785) 296-2215. 
 
The training about the Kansas Open Records Act and the Kansas Open Meetings Act will be conducted by attorneys in Schmidt’s office who have experience in open government laws and who are charged by law with training and enforcement of them. Panelists will include Kansas Sunshine Coalition members, local government officials and media representatives. 
August 8, 2017 4:45 PM

U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) recently introduced legislation - The Private Prison Information Act of 2017 – that would ensure that non-federal prisons are held to the same standard of information sharing and record keeping as federal detention facilities. Increasing transparency and accountability, S. 1728, extends the obligation to respond to Freedom of Information (FOIA) requests on the federal contracting agencies using existing FOIA procedures. Private prison companies that receive federal funding currently claim they are exempt from Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests due to a loophole in the current law.  The legislation continues to allow the government to protect confidential, privileged, and sensitive information from public disclosure under existing exemptions and exclusions. Continue...

July 26, 2017 1:51 PM

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Lara Dieringer
573.882.4856 · ldieringer@nfoic.org

Media of Nebraska becomes NFOIC’s newest state FOI alliance

COLUMBIA, Mo. (July 26, 2017) – Media of Nebraska, a 40-year-old non-profit coalition of print and electronic news organizations operating in Nebraska has become the newest member of the National Freedom of Information Coalition (NFOIC). Forty-five states and the District of Columbia make up NFOIC whose mission is to make sure state and local governments and public institutions have laws, policies and procedures to facilitate the public’s access to their records and proceedings.

Dan Bevarly, NFOIC’s executive director, emphasized the importance of state FOI coalitions that work on behalf of their residents to ensure open and transparent government. “The real battle over First Amendment rights and accessible government is at the state and local levels,” said Bevarly. “NFOIC state affiliates are on the front line daily to help remove obstacles at public institutions that block or hinder people from obtaining information that is rightfully theirs.”

Media of Nebraska’s president, Mike Reilly said his organization members are vigilant to the actions of government when it comes to public access to information. “Forty years has seen many changes and challenges to traditional journalism, and in the relationship between government and citizens,” said Reilly who is also the Vice President for News for BH Media Group. “Media of Nebraska members are serious about their role as public watchdogs, especially when it comes to monitoring state and local governments in the digital age.”

The state coalitions are nonprofits that work together and collaborate over a variety of challenges including monitoring their state legislatures, training and educating journalists and attorneys in their state open government laws, offering hotlines to answer questions and helping citizens petition for public records. Learn more about NFOIC and its state members at www.nfoic.org/members.

 

About NFOIC:  NFOIC is a nonpartisan alliance of state & regional affiliates promoting collaboration, education & advocacy for open government, transparency & freedom of information. Affiliate members include citizen-driven nonprofit freedom of information organizations, academic and First Amendment centers, journalistic societies and attorneys.

July 19, 2017 2:38 PM
In an unusual 1900-word story beginning on the Metro section front page and continuing almost a full page inside, Washington Post reporters Mandy McLaren and Emma Brown on Saturday (July 15) sketched a little known education program, under a (print) headline “the opacity of school choice” and highlighted in the opening text the gaps in public information about the schools involved:
  • Congress dedicates $15 million a year to a program that helps low-income D.C. students pay tuition at private schools, but it’s impossible for taxpayers to find out where their money goes: The administrator of the D.C. voucher program refuses to say how many students attend each school or how many public dollars they receive. It’s also not clear how students are performing in each school. When Congress created the program in 2004, it did not require individual private schools to disclose anything about student performance. And private schools can continue receiving voucher dollars no matter how poorly their students fare.
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