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

November 15, 2015 8:10 PM

Wisconsin watchdog groups and Democratic lawmakers say there's a better way for the state to rewrite its campaign finance laws than the one Republicans are poised to pass on Monday.

The bill Republicans will likely send to the governor's desk would allow unlimited donations to political parties and let candidates coordinate fundraising and strategy with outside groups that keep their donors secret.

It would codify recent decisions by the Wisconsin Supreme Court and federal district courts. Continue...


November 15, 2015 8:06 PM

The public can inspect voted ballots in Colorado. So says a state Court of Appeals decision in 2011 and state legislation enacted the following year.

But some counties are making it prohibitively expensive for at least one election watchdog to obtain the records he says are needed to independently audit the accuracy of voting systems.

Election integrity activist Harvie Branscomb made Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) requests of eight counties for ballot records from the Nov. 3 election. As indicated by email threads posted on his blog, Douglas County wanted an upfront deposit of $4,000 to examine about 88,000 ballot scans for marks that could identify individual voters and then redact any such marks from the copies. Continue...

November 13, 2015 4:30 PM

Open government in Florida is under attack and the Florida First Amendment Foundation (FAF) is taking action.

Gathering in Orlando on Monday, Nov. 16, FAF and other members of the Florida Sunshine Coalition will discuss the issues and open government challenges Florida citizens face today and those the Coalition anticipates for the 2016 legislative session. They will decide on a platform for the Coalition and develop a plan for moving forward.

The Coalition wants to remind Florida's elected officials just how far they have strayed from the Florida Government in the Sunshine laws instituted more than 40 years ago.

"This year alone, we've seen the Legislature acknowledge that its redistricting process was carried out in unconstitutional secrecy," said Barbara A. Petersen, FAF President. "That intentional behavior has cost taxpayers $11 million so far."

Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet have paid out more than $1.3 million in taxpayer dollars in fees and settlements to rectify violations of our constitutional right of access to the meetings and records of our government. A full one-third of the bills passed by the 2015 Legislature exempted previously public information from disclosure.

Florida lawmakers, who take a pledge to uphold Florida law, have exempted more than 1,100 exemptions as an end-run around the intent of Sunshine.

Most recently, the Center for Public Integrity gave Florida a D- for transparency and accountability.

Speakers at the Orlando Nov. 16 summit include award-winning journalist Carl Hiaasen; Mary Ellen Klas, Bureau Chief, Miami Herald; and Sandra F. Chance, Executive Director, Brechner Center for Freedom of Information, University of Florida; and Petersen.

Reservations to attend the summit are required. Please email: for availability.

November 12, 2015 10:16 PM

If you’ve seen news reports on suspicious state contracts or chemical waste pits or officials’ text messages in the Waco biker shootout, you may notice a recurring theme: Government records obtained through the Texas Public Information Act.

Fortunately, our state’s public information law, created in the early 1970s, presumes government records are open unless a specific exemption in the law keeps the documents off limits.

The public has a right to know. That means all citizens – not only journalists – can access government records. Continue...


November 12, 2015 10:10 PM

There have been quite a few accusations of government entities big and small violating Idaho’s open meeting laws recently.

That’s not a trend journalists like to see. Continue... 


November 12, 2015 10:05 PM

A final redraft of a long-in-the-works bill to improve access to public records in Massachusetts could be introduced to the House floor soon. It's about time.

People connected to the process are saying the bill’s language will provide timely access while taking into account agency and municipal concerns over aggressive deadlines and limits to recouping costs. A bill to satisfy all sides?

With final revisions drawn up out of the public’s view? The devil, as they say, is in the details. Continue...

November 12, 2015 10:02 PM

Mr. Worldwide is living up to his name by bringing some global attention to Florida's latest snub of the public's right to know.

The International Business Times noted in a story last week that the state's tourism agency, Visit Florida, is refusing to say how much it's paying rap artist Pitbull to promote the state as its new "ambassador."

Welcome to Florida, the land of sunshine, sand and secrecy. Continue...


November 12, 2015 10:00 PM

The Treasury Department rolled out an open beta of the new, coming one step closer to meeting the requirements of the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act.

In a Tuesday blog post, Treasury Financial Management Service Commissioner David Lebryk, said the site will provide "a unique opportunity for the public to review, test, and provide feedback on data display and search functionality components that will inform Treasury’s efforts to support the needs of data users.” Continue...


November 12, 2015 8:42 PM

The growing importance of criminal justice data in the context of government transparency was highlighted last month when the White House released its Open Government National Action Plan (NAP) to the public. This third iteration of the NAP was the first to include a section on "Justice and Law Enforcement" since the inaugural release in 2011.

The section specifies two areas of focus in which the government has already been involved: access to justice and open police data. The latter, a response to the recommendations that came out of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, is spearheaded by the White House Police Data Initiative — a cooperative effort between police departments and key stakeholders, including the Sunlight Foundation, to improve community relations through better use of data and technology. Continue...


November 12, 2015 8:39 PM

When the class average is a D or lower, most of the pupils are probably witless dolts. All the worse for American taxpayers when those dullards are the 50 state governments — specifically, their laws on ethics and openness, and the legislators who make those laws.

That’s the verdict of a new report by the nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity, which conducted a survey of state laws on political finance; lobbying; public access to information; electoral oversight; and accountability of state legislative, executive and judicial branches. By the center’s reckoning, 11 states received failing grades and just three — Alaska, California and Connecticut — earned marks better than a D+. Continue...


November 12, 2015 8:35 PM

The University of North Carolina system’s Board of Governors will meet Friday to hear a report on faculty compensation and take action on a legislative request – two weeks after giving controversial raises to chancellors in a lengthy closed session.

The notice for Friday’s previously unplanned meeting was sent to reporters Wednesday. An agenda listed the two topics – faculty compensation and a legislative request – but gave no further detail. UNC system officials did not respond to a request for more information Wednesday. Continue...


November 12, 2015 8:32 PM

District lawmakers this week considered two proposals to overhaul the city’s procurement process, which they said has long been marred by corruption and poor transparency.

But the bills — one proposed by D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and the other by Mayor Muriel E. Bowser — reveal widely divergent views of the council’s role in awarding millions of dollars in city funds to private businesses. Continue...

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