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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January 21, 2016 6:15 PM

Does the State Department obstruct valid requests for public records?

That’s what House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) is trying to find out with a new probe of the department’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) program under Secretary John Kerry, former Secretary Hillary Clinton and three of their predecessors.

Citing an increase in FOIA-related litigation, Chaffetz asked the State Department to produce information about how the Office of the Secretary handles records requests.

The office was criticized for a lack of compliance with FOIA rules in a Jan. 7 inspector general’s report. Continue... 

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January 21, 2016 6:11 PM

In a surprise announcement, DC Delegate Eleanor Homes Norton said this week she plans to introduce legislation that would open for the first time in years the financial disclosure forms completed by D.C. judges.

Her legislative proposal will ask Congress to change requirements now in federal law that require the information on lengthy forms but also keep the details closely held.

This scheme drew a failing grade in a nationwide review of state high court judges’ financial disclosure by the Center for Public Integrity in December 2013. Continue... 

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January 21, 2016 6:03 PM

Thirteen million MacKeeper users; 3.3 million Hello Kitty fans; 191 million U.S. voters.

Recently, those people’s names, phone numbers and e-mail addresses, among other personal details, were found on the Internet because of leaky databases. The number of those affected is astounding — made especially terrifying by the fact the data are out there, no hacking required.

“There are tons of these things just sitting out there with no authentication, no password,” said Chris Vickery, the security researcher who discovered those leaks. “You just punch in the IP address and, boom, it’s all there.” Continue... 

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January 21, 2016 5:58 PM

A bill before the New Jersey Legislature would cut public access to police video and audio recordings in New Jersey, making them accessible only by law enforcement or through a court order.

The measure (S788) would create an exemption to New Jersey's Open Public Records Act for "law enforcement camera recordings" as well as 911 calls and transcripts. Its introduction comes as police departments across the state are implementing body camera programs amid a national climate of scrutiny of law enforcement practices spurred by high-profile police shootings.

By the end of this year, as many as 280 departments in New Jersey could be using the technology, according to the state Attorney General's Office. Continue...

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January 21, 2016 5:53 PM

DC Councilmembers David Grosso and Mary M. Cheh introduced a new bill to make significant changes to DC’s open government practices. Namely, the proposed piece of legislation makes tweaks to the District’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Open Meetings Act and Open Government Office Act.

The bill is a veritable laundry list of changes to the legislation above — ranging from “clarifying” various procedures and exemptions to “creating” others.

To make sense of the changes, Technical.ly asked Grosso to weigh in on what parts of the bill he’s most excited about.

Here’s what he highlighted. Continue... 

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DC City Council, DCOGC, FOIA
January 20, 2016 5:08 PM

Michigan Rep. Jon Hoadley is calling for an expansion in Michigan's Freedom of Information Act following Gov. Rick Snyder's announcing plans to release emails on the Flint water crisis.

Hoadley, D-Kalamazoo, applauded the move toward better access but remained skeptical.

"He will release whichever ones he wants to release, and there will be no penalty if he chooses to forget to release a couple, or if he doesn't release some of the other emails, maybe, between various members of his administration," Hoadley said.

Michigan is one of two states that extends a FOIA shield to the governor's office. Hoadley said that's why he's urging change. Continue...

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January 20, 2016 4:59 PM

University of Iowa officials say they weren't intentionally ignoring a letter from the Iowa Freedom of Information Council.

It's just that no one had gotten around to opening the letter until last weekend.

In a letter dated Dec. 30 and sent to the new university president, FOI Council Executive Director Randy Evans raised concerns about UI's refusal to release documents related to work done for the university by a company owned by former Iowa Republican Party Chairman Matt Strawn.

The letter came in response to an Associated Press article concerning how Strawn’s company had received contracts worth about $320,000 without competitive bids. Continue...

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January 20, 2016 4:52 PM

DC Council members David Grosso and Mary Cheh Tuesday introduced a sweeping set of measures to improve open government laws in the District of Columbia. Council member Anita Bonds also cosponsored the bill, the “Strengthening Transparency and Open Access to Government Amendment Act of 2016.”

D.C. Open Government Coalition President Kevin Goldberg hailed the measure as “a set of improvements the community has been advocating for some time that we were delighted to have helped to draft and that we look forward to supporting as the measure moves forward in the Council.”

Mr. Grosso thanked “numerous advocates as well as the Office of Open Government that helped” in the bill’s development and praised Mayor Muriel Bowser also for “commitment to transparency” including a recent initiative on open data that he said “complements” the bill. Continue...

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January 20, 2016 4:44 PM

Two Delaware lawmakers have proposed dueling bills over how charter schools are audited after a string of high-profile incidents in which charter leaders were caught misusing taxpayer funds.

State Rep. Kim Williams, D-Newport, wants the state auditor to select and oversee the firms that do the annual financial reports of charter schools. Currently, charter school boards work out those contracts themselves.

"We should be doing everything we can to ensure that the taxpayers' money is not being misused," Williams said. Continue...

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January 20, 2016 4:32 PM

South Carolina Rep. Mike Pitts, R-Laurens, filed a bill Tuesday to establish a “responsible journalism registry” to be operated by the S.C. secretary of state.

That bill’s summary says the bill would “establish requirements for persons before working as a journalist for a media outlet and for media outlets before hiring a journalist.”

The summary also includes registration fees, and sets fines and criminal penalties for violations. A person seeking to register with the state as a journalist would have to submit a criminal record background check and “an affidavit from the media outlet attesting to the applicant’s journalistic competence.” Continue...

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January 15, 2016 2:35 PM

In April 2015, the New York City television station NY1 filed a open-records request for “unedited video files from the NYPD’s body camera program” captured during five specific weeks in 2014 and 2015. Four months later, the New York City Police Department agreed to review and release the footage—but only after NY1 paid a $36,000 “copying fee.” NY1 appealed the N.Y.P.D.’s decision and, in a letter dated September 16 of last year, was once again denied by the N.Y.P.D.’s deputy commissioner of legal matters.

As the New York Post reported yesterday, the details of the N.Y.P.D.’s response, including the exorbitant fee (charged by a public agency with a budget of $78.5 billion), were revealed in a lawsuit NY1 filed against the N.Y.P.D. in the Supreme Court of New York County on Wednesday.  Continue...

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January 15, 2016 2:18 PM

Over the last two months I have written extensively on the many ways in which the evolving and globalizing world of the Internet is shifting away from being the flag bearer of free-for-all freedom of speech and towards a moderated commercial enterprise that must mediate among conflicting global standards on acceptable speech and online conduct. What does this mean for the future of the Internet?

Twitter, one of the poster children of the freewheeling social media era that once called itself “the free speech wing of the free speech party” turns 10 years old this coming March, offering an opportunity to look back on how it has navigated the ever-changing fluidity of online speech.  Continue...

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