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

February 8, 2017 5:36 PM

Two bills before a Kansas Senate committee would make government meetings and records more accessible to the public.

Both bills were presented to the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee last week.

Senate Bill 70 clarifies a law that requires government bodies to justify going into private meetings. Under the measure, the reason for the private meeting would have to be recorded in public minutes.

Senate Bill 86 reduces how much government entities can charge for public records. It caps the price per page at 25 cents. Also, the cost of the time it takes a worker to acquire a public record must be charged at the lowest hourly rate.

Continue...

February 8, 2017 5:34 PM

Yesterday, when Mike Best broke the news that the FBI would be shutting down its FOIA email address and directing all online submissions through its online portal, a few people sensibly asked just how bad that portal could be. We’re here to tell you how bad.

Full disclosure: Some of MuckRock’s best friends have worked on building FOIA portals (hey, 18F!). We think that there’s room for well-designed government software to make life easier for requesters AND agencies. But the FBI’s eFOIA system appears to be designed explicitly not to be used.

Continue...

February 7, 2017 4:17 PM

The state agriculture department refused to release a list of dairy farmers.

Chicopee withheld the budget for its SWAT team.

Massachusetts State Police wouldn’t say how much they spent in salaries to operate each station.

All the denials had one thing in common: Agencies cited an exemption to the Massachusetts public records law that was enacted after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to keep building blueprints and other sensitive documents out of the hands of terrorists. The exemption allows agencies to withhold certain documents if, in the reasonable judgment of the records holder, the disclosure is “likely to jeopardize public safety or cyber security.”

Continue...

February 7, 2017 4:12 PM

Rep. Chatfield said this proposal is similar to the legislation introduced last session. Last year, Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof shut down the bill because it didn't include an exception to correspondence received from a lawmaker's constituents.

That remains a major sticking point for this year's version of the legislation. The definition of a "constituent" is up for interpretation and could create a sizable loophole.

For example, if a legislator’s "constituent" is a huge donor and correspondence between the two included discussions of favors or a type of pay for play, that could be something that the public might be interested in.

Continue... 

February 7, 2017 4:08 PM

In November, Always Investigating told you about a lawsuit by the Kokua Council against the Department of Health over its posting of health care facility inspections.

While digging into the long-term care reports – which track the trends of the most common violations – we found extensive blackouts on most of them.

A judge ruled Thursday, Feb. 2, that the redactions were overly extensive and violated the state’s open records law.

Continue...

February 6, 2017 5:57 PM

An Oklahoma County Judge ruled in favor of Governor Mary Fallin in one of the lawsuits filed against her and her actions regarding providing open records.

The ACLU of Oklahoma is representing two parties in a lawsuit and asked a judge for summary judgement in their favor after a local journalist and an Oklahoma City advocacy group had been waiting more than 900 days for records they requested from the governor’s office.

Continue...

February 6, 2017 5:55 PM

Kansas news organizations and other open-government advocates came to the state Capitol on Thursday, pushing for more transparency in government meetings and reduced costs for records.

The groups are supporting Senate bills 86 and 70 in this year’s legislative session.

SB 70 clarifies what elected officials would have to tell the public when they meet in closed sessions.

SB 86 would place new limits on the prices public agencies can charge for copies of documents requested under the Kansas Open Records Act.

Continue...

February 6, 2017 5:47 PM

A bill introduced Tuesday in the state Legislature could pull North Dakota University System sexual discrimination cases from the public record.

As introduced, Senate Bill 2295 would add new language to the North Dakota Century Code exempting records related to complaints or investigations under Title IX — the federal law prohibiting sexual discrimination in federally funded education systems — from public disclosure. The bill also would amend existing code to extend public record exemptions to cover data produced from university research studies. Both sections would apply to institutions under the control of the State Board of Higher Education.

Donna Smith, the Title IX coordinator for the University of North Dakota, said the records produced in cases of alleged sexual discrimination apply to cases of sexual harassment and assault. Smith said current public access to such records is a “concern for many people I visit with.”

Continue...

February 3, 2017 5:25 PM

On Wednesday legislation aimed at government transparency was resurrected in the Michigan State House.

The bipartisan bills would allow you to formally request information from the governor’s office down to the state legislature. However the bills may prompt a showdown between the State House and the State Senate.

House lawmakers from both parties are putting State Senators on the spot, putting them on notice that there needs to be more government transparency in Michigan.

Continue...

February 3, 2017 5:20 PM

New Mexicans soon will have more insight into the private business dealings of their public officials.

The Secretary of State’s Office plans to post online later this month the latest finance reports filed by legislators and other top government officials.

Publishing the mandatory reports online is a shift in policy for the office. It stopped posting the filings in 2012 under then-Secretary of State Dianna Duran, a Republican who later resigned from office before pleading guilty to felony corruption charges.

Continue...

February 3, 2017 5:17 PM

A group of senators on Thursday briefly debated a touchy subject — whether they should prohibit themselves from using their campaign funds for personal use.

The debate happened during a meeting of the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee on the Senate floor just after adjournment, prompting a complaint from Sen. Amanda F. Chase, R-Chesterfield, that holding the meeting on the floor was not transparent for the public.

Continue...

February 2, 2017 10:55 PM

A court ruling in St. Louis County last month found that Missouri public records laws do not allow government agencies to charge fees for the time they spend reviewing public records and blacking out information before turning them over to the people who requested them.

The Missouri Sunshine Law says the requester can be billed for the time it takes to locate records, but the government has the responsibility to segregate open parts from closed.

Because public records such as police reports often contain pieces of information that can be kept confidential, such as Social Security numbers, public agencies typically review those records and remove sensitive parts before releasing them.

Continue...

Syndicate content