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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April 18, 2016 6:41 PM

First Amendment concerns didn’t prevent a panel of state lawmakers from endorsing a prohibition against medical marijuana advertising that is likely to reach youths under 18.

The House Finance Committee voted 9-2 in favor of HB 16-1363, despite some opinions that it’s an unconstitutional violation of commercial free speech.

The Colorado Press Association and Colorado Broadcasters Association question the legality of the bill as well as existing restrictions on recreational pot advertising. But several committee members disagreed with that interpretation, saying their priority is the safety of children. Continue...

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April 18, 2016 6:34 PM

Want to learn more about how to make a proper OPRA request and what records you can access? Want to ensure your town better complies with public meeting rules?

Join the New Jersey Foundation for Open Government at the Cranford Community Center the evening of April 26th for a discussion of the state’s open public records and meetings laws (OPRA and OPMA). This event is being provided at no cost to attendees thanks to our sponsor, the Union County Watchdog Association (UCWA).

Don’t miss this opportunity to learn about the laws that provide access to public meetings and documents, allowing citizens greater insight into the operations of state and local governments in New Jersey. Continue...

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April 15, 2016 7:56 PM

A healthy system of self-government — something Rhode Island, unfortunately, lacks — depends on public access to information about the activities of those who hold power in the people’s name.

This is something the public must insist on, because when politicians get to decide whether privacy or disclosure should take precedence, it is a safe bet the politicians will come down against the public.

It’s not hard to figure out why: public disclosure makes it harder for politicians to dodge accountability and to give special treatment to favored allies. The politicians who have plied their connections to win lifetime seats on the Rhode Island Supreme Court obviously feel the same. Continue...

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April 15, 2016 7:53 PM

Legislation introduced this week in the House would allow the public to request National Security Council records under the Freedom of Information Act, restoring the status quo that existed until a court ruling two decades ago effectively put the council beyond the reach of the federal government's pre-eminent transparency law.

Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) filed the bill, citing reports of major growth in the National Security Council's size, as well as accusations from former officials that the National Security Council micromanaged military commanders in the field.

In recent years, such complaints have been aired publicly by former Defense secretaries Bob Gates, Chuck Hagel and Leon Panetta. The trio's objections were also prominently featured in a Fox News special broadcast earlier this month. Continue...

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April 15, 2016 7:50 PM

Police-worn body cameras would be regulated for the first time in North Carolina under legislation that will be considered this year.

A legislative committee on Thursday approved a draft bill that would not require law enforcement agencies to use the cameras, but would leave it up to each department in consultation with city or county officials.

“Technology is moving rapidly,” said Rep. John Faircloth, a Republican from High Point who is a former police chief, who added that many agencies already use the equipment. “We are making policy recommendations with some rules, leaving day-to-day decisions to local or state law enforcement." Continue...

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April 15, 2016 7:46 PM

Each exception made to Alabama’s open-meetings laws leaves the door open for another. The best option are open-meetings laws that ensure public bodies operate fully in the open.

If Sen. Gerald Dial’s proposed amendment this spring becomes law, Alabama’s universities and colleges would be able to discuss hiring top-level positions without the public’s knowledge because trustee boards could meet in secret.

The University of Alabama and Auburn University already can because of an act signed last year by Gov. Robert Bentley. Dial wants that right to secrecy given to others, as well. Continue...

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April 15, 2016 7:42 PM

Government spending transparency is improving, but many states still lag far behind, according to “Following the Money 2016: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data,” the sixth annual report of its kind by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund.

Some states have improved their spending transparency web portals significantly, earning perfect scores in this year’s report, while others are still barely achieving the minimum standards.

“As tax day approaches, millions of Americans will write checks to their state governments. Citizens deserve to be able to follow their tax dollars, from the most minor state expenditures to the most major development subsidies,” said Michelle Surka, program associate with U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund.

“This year, it’s clear that several states made a commitment to meeting the high national standards for spending transparency. Other states continue to lag behind, unable to overcome some of the barriers that prevent comprehensive spending disclosures.” Continue... 

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April 14, 2016 6:52 PM

Denver is lawyering up in response to the district attorney’s review of potential criminal open records violations.

As part of a special counsel contract that was already in place, the city has asked Davis, Graham and Stubbs LLP to represent the city attorney’s office in the district attorney’s review of possible open records violations.

The city “has engaged DGS to represent the City concerning the Denver District Attorney’s inquiry regarding the subject Brian Maass CORA request,” wrote Nikki Holmlund in response to a Watchdog.org request about whether the city has retained counsel in the case. Continue...

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April 14, 2016 6:48 PM

We’re never short of people and groups seeking to shape the work of each Hawaii legislative session to their own benefit.

Our state is no different than any other in that regard. But what continues to set Hawaii apart is its lack of solid laws to regulate that lobbying. This leaves our legislative process vulnerable to corruption, particularly in a state government controlled entirely by one political party.

As Civil Beat’s Nathan Eagle reported last week, companies and organizations spent nearly $1 million to lobby the Legislature in the first two months of this year’s session. Hawaii law gives the public the right to know how much those concerns are spending on lobbyists and who is doing the work. But that’s pretty much where it ends. Continue...

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April 14, 2016 6:43 PM

Body cameras will soon be standard operating equipment for all police officers in Connecticut, according to a group of law enforcement and freedom of information experts who participated in a recent Southern Connecticut State University forum.

“And that’s a good thing,’’ said Anthony Gaunichaux, vice president of the NAACP chapter in Middletown and who, until his retirement, worked as a supervisor in the state Department of Children and Families. Continue...

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April 14, 2016 6:40 PM

A new bill introduced Thursday would give a legislative basis to a number of open data initiatives already underway in the federal government under executive order.

The Open, Public, Electronic and Necessary (OPEN) Government Data Act, introduced by Reps. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., and Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, would build upon a number open data policies from the Obama administration that push federal agencies to make as much data as possible free for the public to use.

A Senate version of the bill will also soon be introduced by Sens. Brian Schatz, D-HI, and Ben Sasse, R-Neb. Continue...

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April 14, 2016 6:36 PM

Florida government agencies that lose lawsuits filed by people seeking access to public records will have to pay plaintiffs’ attorney fees, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday in a Jacksonville-based case.

And it doesn’t matter if the agency didn’t know it was breaking Florida’s public records laws when it denied or limited access to records, the court ruled.

“This is really important,” said Barbara Petersen, president of the open government watchdog group First Amendment Foundation. “It’s not a penalty. They don’t pay damages or anything. They simply have to pay our attorneys’ fees if we have to sue them and take them to court for violating our rights.” Continue...

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