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

April 22, 2016 4:33 PM

The D.C. Housing Authority commissioners have for many months met in secret before their regular meetings, without announcement or records, to discuss a range of topics required by law to be heard in open session.

These findings came to light in an opinion letter issued this week by the District transparency watchdog, Office of Open Government.

The Office in an earlier letter had warned the Authority it faced a lawsuit for not cooperating in the investigation, conduct the Office called “reckless and willful disregard” of the law. That finding was later withdrawn after the agency acknowledged communication failures within its staff and provided necessary documents. Continue...


April 21, 2016 5:31 PM

An Oklahoma bill to set up a new online portal for open records requests and expand the number of documents available on the state’s open data portal in the process is nearly ready to head to Gov. Mary Fallin’s desk.

Rep. Josh Cockroft and Sen. Nathan Dahm’s H.B. 3142 passed the Senate last week (after House lawmakers approved it in March), and on Monday, the bill headed back to the House so legislators can consider its amendments. Should they give it the green light, it will need only Fallin’s signature to become law.

The legislation is aimed at creating the “Oklahoma State Government Open Records One-Stop Initiative,” which would charge state Chief Information Officer Bo Reese with developing “” to allow users to request documents electronically under the state’s public records law. Continue...


April 21, 2016 5:28 PM

The log of public records requests that Vermont law requires the administration to keep up to date went more than a year without updating.

As of Tuesday morning, the Department of Information and Innovation had not updated a log of requests made under the Vermont Public Records Act since March 2015. Additionally, it appears the Shumlin administration never sent an annual report detailing such requests that was due Jan. 15.

The log and the annual report to the Legislature are required under state law, according to the secretary of state’s office. Continue...


April 21, 2016 5:25 PM

Virginia would not run afoul of federal law or violate death row inmates’ constitutional rights by passing a law allowing the state to obtain lethal injection drugs from secret sources, according to an opinion released late Tuesday by Attorney General Mark R. Herring.

In a 13-page document, Herring responded to a series of Republican and Democratic lawmakers’ questions about a pending death penalty bill that will be a major focus when the General Assembly reconvenes today to take up Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s vetoes and amendments.

McAuliffe has recommended allowing the state to obtain execution chemicals from unidentified pharmacies and outsourcing facilities. Continue...


April 21, 2016 5:21 PM

State and local leaders have been stunned by the fiasco in Flint, Michigan, where city officials switched the water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River in order to save money.

That hasty change caused older pipes to leach dangerous levels of lead that contaminated the local drinking water supply.

On Wednesday, April 20, it was announced that as many as four government employees, including the former supervisor of Flint’s water treatment plant, will face criminal charges for actions related to the water crisis. Continue...


April 21, 2016 5:16 PM

The Ohio Supreme Court is deciding whether police departments can shield the complete files of a long-closed criminal case until all chance of appeals are exhausted, usually because the defendant is dead.

A public records lawsuit contends that the position taken by the Columbus Police Department and backed by the local prosecutor is part of a trend around the state of agencies refusing to release such records.

The court, holding a special session in Meigs County in southern Ohio, heard from both sides Wednesday. Continue...


April 20, 2016 5:16 PM

Nearly 95 percent of bills defeated in the Virginia House of Delegates this session went down without a recorded vote, according to a new analysis from the coalition Transparency Virginia.

That means the bills were killed for the year – through one of several procedural motions – without clerks taking note of who voted one way or another.

Some bills went down without a vote, some went down on voice votes that aren't recorded and can be hard to sort out, even for people in the room. The legislature doesn't record usually record these meetings, either. Continue...


April 20, 2016 5:12 PM

The public has a right to government records in electronic format when seeking information under New Hampshire's Right-to-Know law, the state Supreme Court unanimously ruled Tuesday.

The case stems from an appeal by Donna Green of Sandown, who has represented that town on the Timberlane Regional School Board since 2014, and had to sue the school district to gain access to salary information in electronic format.

Green, who often has been at odds with other board members and school administrators, was censured by the board in 2014 for content she posted in a blog about the school district. Continue...


April 20, 2016 5:07 PM

A state government proposal would require Wyoming agencies to charge a standard set of fees for obtaining public records.

The goal: simplifying that process across departments. But some have questioned parts of the proposed rules, including a section that appears to create a potential cost to inspect electronic records.

The rules, whose development was overseen by the state Department of Administration and Information, outline what agencies would be able to charge the public to inspect and copy electronic and non-electronic public records. Continue...


April 20, 2016 5:02 PM

Legislators give lip service to the public’s right to know about government operations. But too often, for the right special interest, they will limit access to information.

Right now, two bills addressing this tendency are pending, one involving an entrenched special interest, the other a shiny new one.

One should pass. The other, not so much. Continue...


April 20, 2016 4:56 PM

The Indiana Supreme Court Tuesday ruled it will not force Indiana lawmakers to release their emails under the state’s public records law.

The Court says to do so would violate the state constitution’s separation of powers. Citizen advocacy groups, including the Citizens Action Coalition, filed a lawsuit to gain access to emails between a House Republican legislator and utility companies.

The state’s public records law exempts what’s called “legislative work product,” but doesn’t define what that means. Continue...


April 19, 2016 8:13 PM

Pennsylvania is renewing its commitment to transparency.

On April 18, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, who assumed office in January, signed an executive order to create an open data portal. The new portal is mandated to contain downloadable, machine-readable data, a feature not offered by the state’s existing transparency site called PennWATCH. The state Office of Administration is also mandated to help agencies find their most valuable data sets.

“One of our most valuable and underutilized resources in state government is data,” Wolf said in a press release. “Our goal is to make data available in order to engage citizens, create economic opportunities for businesses and entrepreneurs, and develop innovative policy solutions that improve program delivery and streamline operations.” Continue...


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