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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April 5, 2017 10:48 PM

Bids submitted by companies vying for a state government contract will be exempted from public-records requests until the contract winner is announced under legislation signed by Gov. Rick Snyder.

The law, which takes effect immediately, shield records containing a trade secret or financial or propriety information from being released under the state's Freedom of Information Act.

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April 5, 2017 10:46 PM

United States cities face a critical challenge when it comes to fulfilling the potential of open data: that of moving beyond the mere provision of access to data toward the active facilitation of stakeholder use of data in ways that bring about community impact. Sunlight has been researching innovative projects and strategies that have helped cities tackle this challenge head on. Today we’re excited to share a guide for our new approach to open data in U.S. cities–an approach we’re calling “Tactical Data Engagement,” designed to drive community impact by connecting the dots between open data, public stakeholders, and collaborative action.

In the spirit of the collaborative approaches we recommend, we’ll be continuing to speak to experts and public officials in city government for the next few months to learn how to better adapt Tactical Data Engagement to fit cities’ needs.

Let us know what you think by reaching out to local@sunlightfoundation.com or by leaving a comment in the public Google Doc [after the jump]. Enter your comments by May 1 to get your ideas into our first round of revisions.

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April 5, 2017 10:44 PM

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to review a First Circuit Court of Appeals decision to strike down a New Hampshire law banning “ballot selfies.”

By declining to review the case, the court has allowed the First Circuit ruling to stand, a result the New England First Amendment Coalition calls a victory for the First Amendment and open government.

NEFAC filed an amici brief — drafted on behalf of the coalition by attorneys at the Harvard Law School Cyberlaw Clinic — last year arguing that the New Hampshire law is an unconstitutional restriction on free speech and could impede the public’s ability to monitor its government.

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April 5, 2017 12:47 AM

A bipartisan and bicameral group of lawmakers reintroduced Wednesday the OPEN Government Data Act — a bill that passed the Senate last year but stalled in the House.

The bill, which would set a presumption that federal data should be published online in a machine-readable format, has a broad support from open data advocates, government spending watchdogs and the technology industry.

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April 5, 2017 12:46 AM

Today the Seattle Open Data Program has published its 2016 Annual Report as well as its 2017 Open Data Plan. As this is the first time the City has released either of these publications, it marks an important step forward in the maturation of our Open Data Program.

The Open Data Program makes the data generated by the City of Seattle openly available to the public for the purpose of increasing the quality of life for our residents; increasing transparency, accountability and comparability; promoting economic development and research; and improving internal performance management.

Seattle is home to an engaged, innovative public that wants to make the city a better place to live. As a City, we strive to make our data open to the public, enabling those outside of government to find solutions to our most pressing civic challenges.

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April 5, 2017 12:43 AM

The National Archives and Records Administration has told the White House to keep each of President Donald Trump's tweets, even those he deletes or corrects, and the White House has agreed.

The head of the archives, David S. Ferriero, told two Democratic senators in a letter last week that the White House has assured him it's saving all Trump's Twitter blasts.

The archives contacted the White House about the matter because the Presidential Records Act requires such correspondence to be preserved for history. Ferriero did not say when the agency contacted White House officials to remind them about the records requirement, but officials briefed the White House counsel's office about the law on Feb. 2, according to the archivist's letter to Sens. Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Tom Carper of Delaware.

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April 3, 2017 4:34 PM

A legal fight between a lawyer for former New Mexico Secretary of State Mary Herrera and the state Attorney General’s Office over an unfilled public records request is escalating.

Herrera attorney A. Blair Dunn says the AG’s Office is “just playing games” by contending that it never received Dunn’s request for emails between the AG’s staff and two people Herrera fired in 2010 while she was secretary of state. He said Monday that the AG’s Office may be ignoring this and other records requests he’s made because of political and personal differences. Dunn is a Republican and the son of State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn. Attorney General Hector Balderas is a Democrat.

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April 3, 2017 4:29 PM

Les Zaitz says he’s got more pressing matters to attend to than being sued by the government.

Zaitz is editor and publisher of the Malheur Enterprise, a 1,400-circulation weekly in Vale, Oregon. The town’s an old stop on the Oregon Trail up against the Idaho border. The paper is one of those little community weeklies that have been struggling all over the country, victims of tectonic shifts in tastes and business models.

Now this one’s also got $400-an-hour taxpayer-financed attorneys to reckon with.

The tiny weekly was sued this past week by a state agency. Not because the paper did anything wrong, but because it’s pursuing public records in a horrific murder case of intense interest in the town. The government wants to shield the records, and make the paper pay its court costs and any “additional relief as this court deems just and proper.”

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April 3, 2017 4:27 PM

On March 7, 2017, Riverside’s City Council passed an open data proclamation. The announcement formalized its commitment to an upcoming resolution to proactively release open data and provide free access to the public.

Riverside, California is one of more than 50 What Works Cities working with the Sunlight Foundation to develop an open data policy. Thanks to strong support from Riverside Mayor Rusty Bailey, Riverside chief innovation officer Lea Deesing has improved the way data reaches Riverside’s residents by leading a team of developers and city administrative officials working side-by-side.

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March 24, 2017 6:49 PM

The American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma has filed an open records request into a proposed round of school consolidations in Oklahoma City.

On Monday, Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Aurora Lora presented a plan to consolidate five schools as the school looks for cost-saving measures. The following schools were in the proposal:
Edgemere Elementary
FD Moon Academy
Gatewood Elementary
Green Pastures Elementary
Johnson Elementary

ACLU Oklahoma Legal Director Brady Henderson says the closures appear to impact schools in neighborhoods "predominantly of color" and those that are major centers for students with disabilities and special needs.

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March 24, 2017 6:41 PM

Florida allows some of the easiest access to government records and meetings of any state in the country under the state's Sunshine Laws.

People have a right to access state documents like minutes from meetings between government officials, foster care case files and environmental studies. Government meetings for the most part are open to the public for anyone to attend.

This is obviously helpful to reporters, lawyers and investigators, but these records are available to anyone who requests them.

There are exceptions, though, to this broad right: 1,119 cases at last count.

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March 24, 2017 6:37 PM

Wisconsin's courts director is considering removing records of criminal cases that ended in dismissal or acquittals from the state's popular online courts database within months, rather than decades, out of concern that people are abusing the information.

The move could result in thousands of cases disappearing overnight from the Wisconsin Circuit Court Access database, popularly known as CCAP, warned Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council President Bill Lueders. Hard copies of the records would still be available at local courthouses, but they would no longer be a mouse click away. The state would be left with an online compendium of the guilty that could lead to even more discrimination, Lueders said.

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