FOI Advocate News Blog

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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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February 11, 2015 11:19 AM

A proposal to invite all 87 of Utah's Republican state lawmakers into a closed-door debate on health care policy is raising concerns.

State senators appeared Monday to be balking at the idea of a joint behind-the-scenes discussion with their House counterparts about Gov. Gary Herbert's Healthy Utah Medicaid expansion plan before voting on a hallmark issue of the 2015 legislative session.

Newly installed House Speaker Greg Hughes said last week the proposed caucus would be a "roll-your-sleeves-up, speak bluntly meeting" to thoroughly vet Herbert's proposals on health care funding for tens of thousands of low-income Utahns. Continue>>>
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February 11, 2015 11:14 AM

State officials say more than 60 percent of Maryland local governments haven’t complied with a 2013 state law requiring training in the state’s Open Meetings Act.

The Carroll County Times reported Sunday that that the Open Meetings Compliance Board sees lots of room for improvement. Chairwoman Monica Johnson says local officials must be educated about the law.

The law requires all government boards, commissions, task forces and bodies subject to the Open Meetings Act to designate a person to take a training class. They had until April 1 to designate a trainee and tell the attorney general’s office when the training was completed. Continue>>>
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February 11, 2015 11:10 AM

Phrases like “housing vouchers” and “senior accessibility” aren’t commonly heard at a weekend hackfest. But those words were the focus of one of Seattle’s largest open data hackathons ever — a unique event hosted by Zillow and the University of Washington this weekend.

More than 200 developers spent most of the past 72 hours at Zillow’s downtown Seattle headquarters for “Hack Housing,” an event that encouraged teams to use public government data to build solutions that help people find affordable and accessible places to live — specifically first-time homebuyers, senior citizens, and low-income renters.

The judges awarded the $10,000 first-place prize to SmartMove, an app developed by Tim Lebell, Jake Grajewski, and David Puerto that determines the best place to live based on proximity to a person’s most-visited locations, like a workplace, the grocery store, and other places critical to their daily lives. Continue>>>
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February 11, 2015 11:06 AM

The term Sunshine State has also come to describe a state government that is open and accessible to all citizens, most clearly expressed in our state’s open government laws.
But a profound and dangerous darkness has overtaken every corner of state government and most especially in Tallahassee.

Gov. Rick Scott recently boldly acknowledged this creeping darkness when he asserted that “longstanding convention and tradition” were the explanation for blatant violations of the law. Continue>>>
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February 10, 2015 2:10 PM

The American Civil Liberties Union early Monday withdrew an emergency motion filed late last month in its Freedom of Information Act lawsuit that blocked the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee from collecting all copies of the committee’s full, unredacted report on the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation program.”

The move came after the Department of Justice (DOJ) responded to the motion on Friday night, promising that the Obama administration would not destroy or return to Senator Richard Burr, R-North Carolina, copies of the report without permission from the judge in the ACLU’s lawsuit.


“The government can now assure the court that it will preserve the status quo either until the issue of whether the Full Report is a congressional document or an agency record is resolved, or until it obtains leave of court to alter the status quo,” the Friday brief reads. Continue>>>
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February 10, 2015 1:49 PM

Details of a plot to kill Occupy Houston leaders won't be released after a federal court upheld the FBI's claim that the documents are legally exempted from the Freedom of Information Act.

The FBI argued information was withheld, including 12 of 17 relevant pages, to protect the identity of confidential sources who were "members of organized violent groups," according to Courthouse News Service.

A heavily-redacted FBI document first revealed a Houston plot "to gather intelligence against the leaders of the protest groups and obtain photographs, then kill the leadership via suppressed sniper rifles." Continue>>>
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February 10, 2015 1:43 PM

Five years ago, a taxpayer watchdog invoked the state Freedom of Information Law and started a court battle for access to the names of retired public employees who are collecting pensions, along with the amounts of their payments.

The litigation drags on, despite a ruling by New York’s highest court that the information is public. As it clearly is under the law. As it must be in order for the public to scrutinize New York’s vast, increasingly expensive public retirement systems.

In the latest round, the Uniformed Firefighters Association and the Uniformed Fire Officers Association have gotten a hearing before Brooklyn Acting Supreme Court Justice Peter Sweeney. Continue>>>
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February 10, 2015 1:30 PM

Thanks to controversy surrounding a student newspaper’s open records request, the public now knows that Jack White is currently on a “no banana” tour, that he prefers his guacamole “chunky” and that he doesn’t think much of journalism degrees.

Those details were revealed after the University of Oklahoma’s OU Daily got curious about White’s sold-out performance at the university’s McCasland Field House. Staffers wanted to see how much the University was paying White to perform (upwards of $80,000, it turns out), so they filed an open records request for the contract.

The paper received the document and published it on its website. Among the most interesting tidbits: Continue>>>

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February 10, 2015 1:25 PM

Denial of public records, excessive fees to find out what the government is doing, violations of open meetings law and long delays in getting information are some of the problems open records advocates find in Tennessee.

News media routinely face hurdles in getting information to report to the public but ordinary citizens have it 10 times worse, said Deborah Fisher, executive director of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government. She made the comment during the annual Associated Press-Tennessee Press Association legislative preview session.

Fisher told the story of a widow who was charged $1,000 just to see the case file involving her husband who had been shot to death by a sheriff's deputy. Continue>>>
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February 10, 2015 1:21 PM

Open government experts say he's asking for the impossible. Tim Clemans, a local computer programmer, has requested almost every email from every state agency ever sent, which some fear could push the public records act to the breaking point.

Email is one of the main ways state government workers communicate. Clemans wants the public to have access to the messages those workers send.

"I'm really looking at the big picture here," Clemans said. "I want government to be transparent by default." Continue>>>
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February 9, 2015 12:51 PM

A legislative proposal that had concerned government transparency advocates has been withdrawn by the bill’s sponsor.

Rep. Bob Nicholas, R-Cheyenne, pulled House Bill 232 Thursday morning right before it was about to be debated by the House Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee.

His action effectively kills the legislation, since Friday is the deadline for bills clear the committee in their house of origin. Thursday was the last meeting this week for the House Corporations Committee. Continue>>>
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February 9, 2015 12:47 PM

A bill filed Wednesday seeks to limit the scope of the Texas Public Information Act to Texas residents.

The legislation, filed by Rep. Mike Schofield, R-Katy, would allow members of a governmental body to decide if they want to deny or comply with open records requests filed by non-Texas residents. Current law stipulates public information in Texas must be made available to all members of the public, without regard to residency.

“The purpose of Texas government is to serve Texans, not folks from other places,” Schofield said. “It costs money and takes time every time we have a request.” Continue>>>
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