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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January 2, 2017 10:42 AM

New laws aimed at government transparency, landowner protection and banned activities took effect in New Hampshire on Sunday. Political committees are now required to file donation reports during off-election years to give citizens more opportunities to see who is giving money to politicians. A new law also outlines legal actions landowners can take if someone pollutes their land with hazardous waste. And shining a laser pointer at a plane, selling synthetic urine or engaging in bestiality are now officially banned in the state.
The more sweeping pieces of legislation, such as continuing Medicaid expansion and providing more money to fight the state's drug addiction crisis, took effect months ago.
A look at the new laws:  Continue...

New Hampshire
January 2, 2017 10:34 AM

Here's a New Year's resolution for North Dakota lawmakers: Pass transparency provisions for political campaigns as well as state and local governments.

The time is right. In Doug Burgum our state has a governor who is promising to reinvent government, making it more accessible and efficient. A big part of his pitch is using technology to collect and disseminate public information. The Legislature should take Burgum's rhetoric and turn it into policy. For instance, a revamp of campaign finance reporting is badly needed. There are holes in the data reported—state lawmakers don't have to report the money they spend — and the reports themselves are too few and far between. Read more...

January 2, 2017 10:26 AM

The city of Chicago paid out about $670,000 last year to plaintiffs in lawsuits alleging that officials violated open records law — nearly five times what the city paid in the previous eight years combined.

Experts and attorneys said the mounting payouts in Freedom of Information Act cases raise concerns about Mayor Rahm Emanuel's pledge to run "the most open, accountable and transparent government that the city of Chicago has ever seen." They said the increase may be attributable to a broader awareness of the public's right to records spurred by high-profile cases such as the Laquan McDonald shooting. More...

December 23, 2016 8:31 AM

We cringe before every legislative session begins because we know a handful of legislators will propose new laws exempting access to public information.

Such will be the case in January when lawmakers convene for the 91st General Assembly.

Sen. Gary Stubblefield, R-Branch, filed Senate Bill 12 that, if passed, would exempt public schools — ranging from prekindergarten to state-funded universities — from releasing emergency and security records under the state’s Freedom of Information Act.

Arkansas once had one of the nation’s strongest public records laws, but that’s changing with each legislative session, and it’s affecting your right to know.

Read full article here.

 


 

December 23, 2016 8:25 AM

It took more than a year for Chicago police – under pressure from the media and the public – to release video footage of the 2014 shooting that left Laquan McDonald dead, 16 bullets in his body. When a judge finally insisted the video be released, it cast major doubt on the police department’s version of events.
State secrets

The State Secrets project is a joint effort by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Local governments hide public records, face few consequences

Public contracts shrouded in secrecy

As witnesses and family members had maintained all along, the video showed that McDonald hadn’t lunged at police with a knife. He did have a knife and had slashed a tire on the police cruiser, but then began walking away. In the video, which was from a police dashboard camera, it looked as though the 17-year-old had been gunned down without provocation. Officer Jason Van Dyke has been charged with first-degree murder.

Read full article here.

 

December 23, 2016 8:21 AM

FOIA, Freedom of Information Act, is the single best bill ever passed to actually benefit any concerned taxpayer.

Have you ever wondered about such things as what bills you, the taxpayer, are paying to operate our county offices, city services or the big one, just how are we spending our tax dollars to operate our local schools. If you don't think it is the big one just look at your last property tax bill.

So how can you use the FOIA act to obtain this information? All public bodies have to, by law, have a FOIA officer. All one has to do is just request from the FOIA officer in writing, or by email, what you wish to receive.

Read full article here.

 

 

December 23, 2016 8:15 AM

The Illinois Freedom of Information Act says citizens "are entitled to full and complete information regarding the affairs of government and the official acts and policies of those who represent them as public officials and public employees."

It does not say, "unless those affairs are conducted on a personal email account."

So what to make of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's decision to release 2,700 pages of emails from his personal accounts to settle a lawsuit filed by the Better Government Association? The BGA had sued to obtain official emails sent or received by Emanuel on nongovernment accounts.

Read full article here.

 

transparency
December 23, 2016 8:10 AM

THE disconcerting story of taxpayer money being used to settle a sexual harassment complaint against an Oklahoma House member underscores the importance of a robust media and its daily pursuit of government transparency.
The Oklahoman’s veteran reporter Nolan Clay broke the story Wednesday of $44,500 in state funds being paid to a former legislative assistant and her attorneys. The 28-year-old woman complained that state Rep. Dan Kirby, 58, began sexually harassing her shortly after she began working for him in January 2015.

Read full article.

 

December 22, 2016 9:02 AM

A hearing on whether the state's transportation planning process should have fewer hearings has brought out complaints from some state lawmakers.

Reps. Sherry Roberts, R-West Greenwich, and Jared Nunes, D-Coventry, on Tuesday wrote separately of their concerns that a proposal to streamline the planning process would badly curtail public involvement.

"It is outrageous for the State Planning Council to attempt to cut out public input," Roberts wrote in a news release that also objected to the state holding a hearing on the proposal less than a week before Christmas.

Nunes wrote that eliminating a requirement for municipalities to hold public hearings before submitting project requests to the state and shortening public comment periods could have negative consequences.

Read full article here.

 

public information
December 22, 2016 8:47 AM

December 22 -- Munetrix, a public sector solutions provider offering data analytics and transparency tools for state and local governments, continues to reshape local government finance through expanded use of the Munetrix platform. The Munetrix® Transparency Compliance Report WizardTM helped its municipal customers simplify the process of applying for revenue sharing from Michigan’s Cities, Villages, Townships Revenue Sharing (CVTRS) and County Incentive Program (CIP), which will result in state payments of more than $30m over the next 12 months. The deadline to submit the information to the state in order to receive 100% of the state allotted revenue sharing for fiscal year 2017 was Dec. 1, 2016.

One Oakland County township, for example, receives $108,695 in revenue sharing. The reports required by the state could take weeks for those who do not use a transparency platform like Munetrix, while relying on a variety of time consuming, error-prone spreadsheets which end up as useless PDFs. Instead, this township completed the report in a couple of hours.

Read full article here.

 

December 22, 2016 8:39 AM

Questions of transparency cropped up throughout the tiers of state and local government over the year as legislation, city policy and school board votes presented an air of secrecy.

Among the more notable local battles for transparency this past year was efforts by the Sun-Gazette to continue publishing daily police activities as it has done for the past three decades. This came about after city police began withholding emergency dispatch records, also known as police logs, in February.

After discussions behind the scenes came to no avail, the newspaper began submitting Right-to-Know requests to the city in August.

At the time, the Sun-Gazette also discovered that, while the police department had stopped sending logs to the newspaper, it continued to send them to other media outlets, rental agencies and private businesses in the area with the condition that the records not be published.

Read full article here.

 

December 22, 2016 8:34 AM

Arguments the government offered behind closed doors when seeking a search warrant in the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails are causing alarm among some transparency proponents and civil liberties advocates.

An affidavit unsealed Tuesday by a federal judge in New York shows that the FBI claimed there was probable cause to believe that a laptop belonging to Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of top Clinton aide Huma Abedin, contained evidence of crimes involving illegal possession of classified information.

Read full article here.

 

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