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/.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

February 10, 2016 4:43 PM

Kansas lawmakers are moving forward with efforts to close a loophole in the state’s open records law that allows public officials to use private e-mail to conduct official business. 

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved SB 361 on Tuesday, sending it to the Senate floor. The bill would amend the Kansas Open Records Act so that any record made by an officer or employee of a public agency “in connection with the transaction of public or official business” would be considered a public record “regardless of form, characteristics or location.”

That addition would allow people to obtain private e-mails sent by public officials when they deal with public business. Continue...

———————

February 10, 2016 4:39 PM

An Indiana Senate panel will hear arguments on a bill to give law enforcement agencies the authority to withhold body camera video from the public. 

Members of the judiciary committee will start the debate of the bill at 9:30 Wednesday morning. The measure being heard Wednesday passed the House last month in a 65-30 vote.

As it’s written the bill gives law enforcement agencies the authority to withhold body camera video from the public. If the media or anyone wants to see the video the bill would require them to obtain a court order. Continue... 
———————

February 10, 2016 4:35 PM

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who vowed to bring transparency to City Hall, repeatedly met with lobbyists but failed to disclose the sit-downs as promised.

An analysis of hundreds of pages of de Blasio’s personal schedules found dozens of meetings and conference calls with lobbyists that were not included on a list of “lobbying meetings” posted on the city’s website.

Two meetings missing from the online list were with real-estate mogul Steve Nislick and Wendy Neu, leaders of the movement to ban carriage horses from Central Park. Continue...

————————

February 9, 2016 7:04 PM

Virginia legislation that could make it nigh impossible to discover the annual salaries of most state and local employees is headed to the Senate floor for a vote.

Senate Bill 552 cleared committee Monday by a single vote, and with some confusion over just how broad the bill was — it was pitched as protection only for law enforcement names.

Virginia Press Association attorney Craig Merritt told Senate General Laws and Technology Committee members that the newest version of the bill would cover not just law enforcement but also "every living breathing employee" in state and local government.

A committee attorney confirmed that reading after the meeting. That would be a major rewrite of Virginia's Freedom of Information Act, which for years has held that government employee names and salaries are a matter of public record. Continue...

———————

February 9, 2016 6:58 PM

Despite Montana’s strong public information laws, news organizations in many Montana counties, including Missoula and Butte, have long fought for the public’s right to access the photographs taken of accused criminals when they are booked into jail.

Thanks to a recent district court ruling, that fight has been largely settled. Not surprisingly, public access triumphed.

News media across Montana, including the Missoulian and The Montana Standard, will soon be able to publish booking photos along with relevant crime stories. Booking photos — or “mugshots” in news industry parlance — are important public information. Continue...

———————

booking photos, FOI, Montana
February 9, 2016 6:50 PM

A Wisconsin bill that would shine light on the emerging investigative technologies and techniques being used by law enforcement is headed for a public hearing this week.

The Assembly Committee on State Affairs and Government Operations has scheduled a hearing on the legislation for 10 a.m. Wednesday at the Capitol.

As law enforcement agencies face new crime-fighting challenges in the Digital Age, they are employing technology and tactics that raise civil liberties concerns.

Even more problematic is just how unaware the public is about this Brave New World of policing. Continue...

———————

February 9, 2016 6:47 PM

Meeting the public’s demand for open government data presents opportunities for elected and appointed officials, as well as many challenges, including associated costs and privacy issues, a Rutgers report finds.

Forty representatives from academia, civic groups, media, municipal, county and state government and open government advocates participated in an Open Government Data Thought Forum to learn about issues related to making various data collected and held by government agencies available to the public in unrestricted, reusable and redistributable form.

They also considered solutions to challenges that unfettered public access to data – everything from cultural works and artifacts held by galleries, libraries and archives to census statistics and key socioeconomic indicators – would present.

One of the most important challenges will be to reform the Open Public Records Act to address the “dramatic” technological changes that have occurred since it was drafted more than 15 years ago, said the report’s author, Marc Pfeiffer of Rutgers’ Bloustein Local Government Research Center. Continue...

————————

February 9, 2016 6:41 PM

At some Arizona schools, more than 30 percent of children haven't been vaccinated against such dangerous infectious diseases as whooping cough and measles.

Parents, state Representative Juan Mendez says, have a right to know which ones.

The Arizona Department of Health lists vaccination rates for kindergarten and sixth-grade children online for most public, charter, and private schools. But, to find the data, you have to know where to look and then wade through a hefty spreadsheet.

Mendez (D-Tempe) argues that the information should be prominently displayed — as easy to access as updates about attendance boundaries and parent-teacher conferences. So he's proposed a bill that would require individual schools to list vaccination rates on their websites. Continue... 

———————

February 8, 2016 7:22 PM

Freedom of Information Oklahoma is accepting nominations for its annual awards that will recognize individuals and organizations that promoted the First Amendment and the free flow of information to the public in 2015.

Those who opposed dissemination of public information are recognized with the organization’s Black Hole Award. The Ben Blackstock Award is presented to a non-governmental person or organization that has shown a commitment to freedom of information.

The Sunshine Award goes to a public official or governmental body that has shown a commitment to open meetings and open records. Continue...
———————

February 8, 2016 7:19 PM

Only a handful of Kansas' 165 legislators have signed an initiative to promote openness and transparency in state government by taking what is being called the "transparency pledge," but the list does include most Lawrence-area legislators.

The Open Kansas initiative was announced Jan. 27 by a coalition of advocacy groups, including Kansas Appleseed, El Centro, Communities Creating Opportunity, Kansas Action for Children, and Kansas Association of Community Action Programs.

The pledge does not call for any specific legislation but asks lawmakers to support "public and transparent processes, timely and reasonable access to public information and increased public participation." Continue...

———————

February 8, 2016 7:16 PM

Records related to “critical infrastructure” would become exempt from disclosure under public records law if a bill that was introduced Friday passes.

“Anyone can walk into any government office and get whatever blueprints they want,” Will Hart, executive director of the Idaho Consumer Owned Utilities Association, told the House State Affairs Committee.

Hart’s groups represents rural electric cooperatives and nine city-owned power companies, including the ones in Burley, Heyburn and Albion. Continue...

–——————

February 8, 2016 7:13 PM

House Republican and Democratic lawmakers in New Mexico have been gathering in closed-door committee and subcommittee meetings over the last two weeks to discuss how to allocate more than $6 billion in state money, without the public scrutiny that comes with most committee hearings.

Bill Valdez, chief of staff for the House Appropriations and Finance Committee, said the secret meetings were not unusual and within the law because the committee made no official decisions. The committee members decided to meet behind closed doors “for everyone’s protection,” he said. 

But the meetings have caught the attention of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government, an open-government group, which is calling on state lawmakers to change the state Open Meetings Act’s conflicting language on whether such secret discussions are legal. Continue...

———————

Syndicate content