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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November 14, 2016 12:03 PM

This week, WFAE’s Lisa Worf has taken listeners through the process of seeking a court order to compel Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department to release video of a police shooting.

On Thursday, Superior Court Judge Eric Levinson denied the request. WFAE's petition was the first in Mecklenburg County under a new law known as House Bill 972.

As of Oct. 1, it’s no longer up to police departments to release video. Instead, anyone who wants body and dash cam video released must go through the court system.

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November 11, 2016 11:13 AM

Pennsylvania Senate Bill 976, which would curtail public access to police body camera video and force anyone who wants access to go through a court process, has reached the Republican-controlled House Judiciary Committee after passing the Republican-controlled Senate last month.

Senators passed the bill 45-5 to change the state's Wiretap Act to allow police to wear body cameras into private homes and public spaces without having to explicitly inform everyone they encounter that they are wearing a camera.

A memo included in the legislation clarifies that police officers may record interviews with suspects or witnesses inside police facilities.

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November 11, 2016 11:08 AM

“Glomar” rejections, as they are known, are mostly issued by federal agencies like the CIA on requests about black ops programs or operations gone wrong, and they have a tight legal scope. Those infamous words, “we can neither confirm nor deny,” are only supposed to come out when national security is at risk, or if someone’s name appearing or not appearing in a law enforcement document would have a ruinous effect on that person’s life or character.

Although Glomar abuse is becoming increasingly common at the federal level, it’s slowly working its way to state agencies, setting a disastrous precedent. If any departments hit you with an unwarranted Glomar denial, let MuckRock know at info@muckrock.com.

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November 10, 2016 11:57 AM

Join VCOG for a variety of panels, speakers and discussions on the most newsworthy topics of the day, including: government use of social media, legislative privilege, information in the age of Madison, proactive disclosure and more.

Further details:
ACCESS '16
James Madison's Montpelier
December 8, 2016
10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (exact schedule to be determined)

Earlybird Registration through Nov. 18: $30 members; $40 non-members
After Nov. 18: $35 members; $45 non-members
Students: $25
Donations, sponsorships: Any amount is welcome!!

For more information, visit the VCOG website.

November 10, 2016 11:50 AM

Represented by the Amercian Civil Liberties Union, a blogger has asked a judge to find that the University of Louisville violated the state’s open records law and rule that documents related to its self-imposed postseason basketball ban should be made public.

In a court filing on Friday, attorneys for Dr. Peter Hasselbacher also asked Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Barry Willett to order U of L to pay attorney’s fees and cost of litigation.

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November 10, 2016 11:48 AM

Voters in four states made decisions on five campaign finance measures on state ballots this year, which is more than any year since the Institute started comprehensively tracking ballot measures in 2004. These measures presented voters with a smorgasbord of options for reforming the political process. The breadth of the topics covered by these measures show that the citizenry is not short on ideas for mediating the role of money in politics.

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campaign finance
November 9, 2016 12:01 PM

The New England First Amendment Coalition is seeking applications for its 2017 Michael Donoghue Freedom of Information Award.

The FOI Award is given each year to a New England journalist or team of journalists for a body of work from the previous calendar year that protects or advances the public’s right to know under federal or state law. Preference is given to applicants who overcome significant official resistance. Application materials can be found here. The deadline for submissions is January 15, 2017.

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November 9, 2016 12:00 PM

This symposium seeks to examine the present state of play with respect to transparency and freedom of information. It will incorporate short sets of remarks and “interventions” throughout the program offering perspectives on the current landscape. And, there will be two panel discussions. The first will offer a "view from the inside,” considering how government actors operate in an atmosphere of increased transparency and citizen engagement. The second will offer a "view from the outside,” as those interested in promoting transparency and accountability consider the ways in which the Internet has impacted their work.

This event is presented by Harvard Law School and by the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, with generous support from HLS alumnus Mitch Julis.

Thursday, November 17, 2016
1:00 pm - 6:30 pm
Harvard Law School, Wasserstein Hall
Milstein East B and Room 2012

More information here...

November 9, 2016 11:57 AM

Making the transition between administrations more open, transparent and accountable is a critical goal that transcends partisan politics. All Americans have a stake in ensuring a peaceful, efficient and effective transition process between administrations, regardless of party or politics. Given the demonstrated risks from poor management, the need to improve the presidential transition has been clear. In 2016, due to the foresight of Congress, an executive order by President Barack Obama on the facilitation of the presidential transition, and the ongoing support of his administration, the process officially began in July, not the day after Election Day.

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November 8, 2016 2:01 PM

This seminar on Nov. 16, 2016, will take place from 9:15 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. at the University of North Texas student union. A free morning session presented by the Texas Attorney General’s Office will focus on the Texas Public Information Act and cost rules. An afternoon session presented by attorney and FOI Foundation board member Tom Williams will address the Texas Open Meetings Act and will take place from 1:15 to 2:45 p.m. There is a $50 fee for the afternoon session. Participants may attend either or both sessions. Click here to register. Lunch is on your own. There are several food options in the UNT student union, where the seminar will be held. (A previously announced luncheon speech option has been cancelled. Those who paid $15 for the luncheon will receive refunds.)

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November 8, 2016 1:59 PM

In Baltimore, it’s recently gotten significantly more expensive to ask the police department for emails under freedom of information laws, which allow journalists and the public to request public governmental records. Here’s the kicker: that change comes shortly after the release of an embarrassing email exchange revealing an officer and a prosecutor making fun of a sexual assault victim.

A journalist using MuckRock discovered the change while making an unrelated request for records. Now, two months after the embarrassing emails surfaced, it’ll cost reporters and other members of the public $50 before even starting a search for emails, making “freedom” of information something of a misnomer.

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November 8, 2016 1:52 PM

Echoing concerns in recent months in a pending federal lawsuit and repeated by a former D.C. Attorney General, a new report again cites the U.S. Attorney here for lack of transparency. This time, for failing to provide data on prosecutions of sexual assaults.

An expert consultant for the Mayor’s Office of Victim Services reported she found it “extremely difficult” to get information needed for her analysis of progress by police and prosecutors since the Council in passing the Sexual Assault Victims Rights Amendment Act of 2014. The law mandated her position and reports.

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