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

April 11, 2017 11:11 AM

A bill encouraging citizens and state agencies to resolve public records disputes outside court is headed to the governor's desk.

The Senate passed the bill Monday 35-0. It offers mediation as an option when a citizen wants to challenge a government agency's denial of his or her request for public records.

Under Colorado's Open Records Act, such challenges must go to court — an expense that deters many from pursuing their requests.

Continue...

April 11, 2017 11:09 AM

An Oklahoma open records expert said he believes OU’s denial of three Daily open records requests goes beyond the scope of the court ruling on which OU has based its denial.

OU has denied The Daily three requests for the names of university employees who are eligible for its Special Voluntary Retirement Incentive. The program encourages eligible employees to retire early and receive a payment equal to a portion of their salaries, and it has now been implemented a second time as a cost-saving measure.

OU denied the records, which it gave to The Daily just one year ago, on the grounds that the ages of employees are protected under the Oklahoma Open Records Act as a personnel record. The records The Daily seeks would show which employees are aged 60 and older — the requirement to be eligible for the early retirement program — but not give the employees’ exact ages.

Continue...

April 11, 2017 11:06 AM

Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law legislation that will exempt in-progress bids for public contracts from Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests last week.

The legislation had been introduced by Sen. Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge) in an effort to combat what he said has been abuse of the FOIA system to undercut Michigan businesses.

“Before this change, vendors could unfairly use FOIA to find out how much money the state can spend on a particular project and also look at bids from their competitors before a final decision has been made,” Jones said. “As a result, state taxpayers could have been missing out on savings as companies could prepare their bids based on information gained through FOIA instead of simply offering the lowest possible price.”

Continue...

April 10, 2017 9:21 PM

A House committee this week approved two bills intended to shine light on political dark money in Colorado.

House Bill 17-1261 would require that anyone spending $1,000 or more in a year on electioneering communications include “paid for” disclosures in those ads. House Bill 17-1262 would close a reporting gap so that spending information on electioneering communications is available throughout a campaign season.

“Both of these bills really work on bringing greater transparency to the election process,” said Rep. KC Becker, D-Boulder, who introduced the measures with Rep. Jeff Bridges, D-Greenwood Village. Both bills passed on party-line votes Wednesday in the Democratic-controlled House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.

Continue...

April 10, 2017 9:19 PM

Each year, Oklahoma legislators and statewide elected officials must report details about their personal finances to alert the public to potential conflicts of interest.

This year, however, they generally will be asked to report fewer facts than ever – that is, since the disclosure rules were approved in 1994.

The Oklahoma Ethics Commission has revised the disclosure form and slashed the number of state employees required to file it, from nearly 6,000 to 362. Only legislators, statewide elected officials and judges must file the form, with agency heads and other state workers exempt.

Continue...

April 10, 2017 9:17 PM

[Dick] Conway has worked as an economist and forecaster for business and government for more than 30 years. In 2001, he served on a committee commissioned by the state Legislature to examine Washington’s tax system and how well it functions. He’s continued that research on his own ever since.

In a report released last month, Conway devised a system for ranking the 50 states on the “transparency” of their tax structure — in other words, how easily folks can tell how much they pay in total taxes.

Washington ranked 49th out of 50.

Continue...

April 7, 2017 10:47 PM

Even the divided Clay County Commission agreed: County Counselor Kevin Graham needed help reducing the backlog of Sunshine Law requests.

But the commission – and several office holders – are split on whether the county should continue employing a Kansas City attorney who charges $373.50 an hour.

Graham had been handling the requests on his own, he said, until the load multiplied.

According to logs kept by the county clerk’s office, twice as many information requests were made in 2016, an election year, than in 2015. That prompted the commission to hire Spencer Fane, a Kansas City, Mo., law firm to handle the backlog.

Continue...

April 7, 2017 10:45 PM

Legislation allowing nonresidents of Delaware to request public records under the state's Freedom of Information Act ran into a roadblock Wednesday in the General Assembly.

Currently, public bodies do not have to respond to FOIA requests from anyone who is not a resident of Delaware.

The proposed legislation, which was tabled in committee Wednesday, would remove that restriction while allowing state agencies and public bodies to charge higher fees to nonresidents, as long as they reasonably reflect the costs needed to defray expenses.

Continue...

April 7, 2017 10:43 PM

he Indiana Senate has approved a bill allowing government agencies to charge $20 per hour for public records requests that take more than two hours to complete.

The measure by Republican Rep. Kathy Richardson of Noblesville passed the Senate on a 44-3 vote Wednesday.

Under the proposal, the first two hours would not be billed. After that, hours spent working to complete the request would come with a bill that's the lesser of $20 per hour or the hourly wage of the employee completing the search.

Continue...

April 6, 2017 11:25 PM

The New England First Amendment Coalition is pleased to announce a $45,000 grant from the Barr Foundation in Boston to help strengthen journalism and protect freedom of the press.

“The Barr Foundation’s generosity will allow us to improve and expand our educational programming,” said Justin Silverman, NEFAC’s executive director. “These are challenging times for journalists and the public’s right to know. This grant will help NEFAC continue to be a leading advocate for the First Amendment and journalists throughout New England.”

The foundation identified NEFAC as one of seven organizations focused on strengthening quality investigative work and protections for freedom of the press. Other grant recipients include the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, ProPublica and the Center for Investigative Reporting. The Barr Foundation grant is to provide core support and will be payable over 36 months.

Continue...

April 6, 2017 11:22 PM

Capriglione’s House Bill 792 would force government entities to be more specific when asserting the right to withhold documents the government believes would hamper a private company’s competitive stance.

The bill is a response to a 2015 state Supreme Court ruling that allowed aerospace giant Boeing to keep secret its lease agreement with the U.S. Department of Defense. The ruling carved out a space for private entities doing government business to protect information that those companies believe would give an advantage to a competitor or bidder.

Another proposal from Capriglione, House Bill 793, would make clear that an organization receiving public funds under specified conditions would be subject to public records requirements.

Continue...

April 6, 2017 11:18 PM

A required “cooling-down period” aimed at resolving open-records disputes without litigation continued its easy journey in the Colorado legislature on Wednesday.

HB 17-1177, approved by the House 65-0 last month after being completely rewritten in committee, passed unanimously in the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.

The bill, which now heads to the Senate floor, requires a 14-day waiting period if someone who is denied records under the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) wishes to challenge the denial in court. During that time period, the records custodian must speak with the requester in person or by phone in an attempt to resolve the dispute.

Continue...

Syndicate content