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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July 11, 2016 11:22 AM

Every Maryland journalist who has filed a freedom of information request or challenged efforts by officials to keep public deliberations secret owes a debt of gratitude to Jim Keat, who passed away July 6 after a prolonged bout with cancer.

Keat passionately detested public secrecy. He led the fight to enlarge and put teeth in Maryland’s Opening Meetings Act and its Freedom of Information Act. Continue...

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July 11, 2016 11:18 AM

Lawyers representing the Daily Press are gearing up to convince a panel of state Supreme Court justices later this summer that the full court should hear the newspaper's case seeking access to a statewide database of court information.

The Daily Press and reporter Dave Ress filed a lawsuit last year against the Office of the Executive Secretary (OES) of the Supreme Court of Virginia under the state's Freedom of Information Act. The lawsuit asked the court to order the OES, the administrative agency for the state's courts, to release the database. Continue...

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July 11, 2016 11:13 AM

The “open data” movement has produced a deluge of publicly available information this decade, as governments like those in the UK and US have released large volumes of data for general use.

But the flood has left researchers and data scientists with a problem: how do they find the best data sets, ensure these are accurate and up to date, and combine them with other sources of information? Continue...

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July 8, 2016 12:19 PM

Wisconsin’s government transparency laws don’t require public bodies such as the University of Wisconsin System’s Board of Regents to immediately disclose the documents that their members plan to discuss at upcoming meetings, a Justice Department official said Thursday.

The Wisconsin State Journal asked the Department of Justice last month to weigh in on whether the UW System violated public records or open meetings laws when it refused to release the details of its $6.2 billion annual operating budget until just before the Regents approved it. Continue...

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July 8, 2016 12:14 PM

Governor Terry McAuliffe today announced the Open Data, Open Jobs initiative to better connect job seekers with job opportunities. The Open Data, Open Jobs initiative provides a new open data set of available jobs in Virginia to equip innovators, programmers, and researchers with accessible data to help the Commonwealth offer new and creative approaches to articulating employer needs for talent and matching job seekers to job opportunities.

Entrepreneurs can use the workforce data to create apps and programs that better engage a new generation of career seekers. Continue...

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July 8, 2016 12:00 PM

At a July 6 hearing of the D.C. Council Committee on Housing and Community Relations, the Coalition opposed a bill to exempt Advisory Neighborhood Commissions from the Freedom of Information Act. Board member LaVita Tuff testified that the bill would perpetuate ANCs' blanket exemption from the Open Meetings Act as well.

She noted that Councilmember Anita Bonds, the committee chair, is a co-sponsor of the Strengthening Transparency and Open Access to Government Act of 2016, which Councilmember Grosso and Cheh introduced in January to help D.C. government implement best practices in transparency and accountability. Ms. Tuff said the Advisory Neighborhood Commissions Omnibus Amendment Act of 2016 before the Housing Committee is in direct conflict with the transparency bill and best practices. Continue...

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July 8, 2016 11:57 AM

The D.C. Open Government Coalition testified July 6 to the D.C. Council opposing legislation to exempt the 41 Advisory Neighborhood Commissions from public records and open meetings laws.

Hundreds of commissioners are elected at the neighborhood level. Commissions (4-6 per ward) advise on D.C. government actions including traffic, parking, recreation, street improvements, liquor licenses, zoning, economic development, police protection, sanitation and trash collection, and the District's annual budget. Continue...

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July 8, 2016 10:32 AM

A Georgia judge who convinced a prosecutor to indict a local newspaper publisher and his attorney after investigative reporting on use of a racial slur to describe a defendant and another man in open court now finds herself in the hot seat after the story became a national outrage.

Charges against Fannin Focus publisher Mark Thomason and attorney Russell Stookey were dropped abruptly on Thursday by elected district attorney Alison Sosebee, who had won indictments upon the request of Superior Court Judge Brenda Weaver last month. Continue...

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July 7, 2016 10:01 AM

Every 10 years — after the decennial census and as mandated by the U.S. Constitution – states are subdivided into sets of congressional districts for representation in the U.S. House of Representatives. GovTrack provides maps of these congressional boundaries for your reference and makes the maps available for embedding on other sites.

Beyond looking up the district for a specific address, maps introduce a geographic context that tells us about the demographics and rural/urban nature of a district and any signs of gerrymandering, as well as whether that district's boundaries show signs of gerrymandering. Continue...

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July 7, 2016 9:55 AM

THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT turns 50 on July 4. This is cause for celebration—and not just because President Obama signed a significant FOIA reform bill to mark the occasion (and atone in some small way for his abysmal FOIA record).

No, we should pause for FOIA’s birthday because every FOIA requester, whether they realize it or not, takes part part in a monumental, multi-decade experiment to see what happens when the most powerful nation in the world says, in essence, “We’re here, and legally obligated, to answer your questions.” Continue...

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July 7, 2016 9:45 AM

Gov. Scott Walker met criticisms from Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday with a challenge to implement stronger open records procedures in the Legislature.

Assembly Democrats lamented a host of recent Republican efforts they say have limited or attempted to limit open government in Wisconsin as they noted the one-year anniversary of a set of sweeping changes to the state's open records laws proposed by Republicans. Those changes were later abandoned after a massive public backlash. Continue...

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July 6, 2016 10:08 AM

An attorney has a civil case that’s about to go to trial. He contacts a friend of his, the editor of a local publication, to encourage coverage of the case. The attorney shares public court records and information about the court schedule. The case is newsworthy, and on the eve of trial the editor’s publication runs a story that outlines the claims of the attorney’s clients.

And for this … the attorney deserves to be sanctioned for frivolous conduct? Continue...

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