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 5, 2016 11:23 PM

The identities of school personnel who carry weapons could be kept secret under legislation passed Monday by the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

Senate Bill 1036, by Sen. Jason Smalley, R-Stroud, exempts records containing those names from the Oklahoma Open Records and Open Meetings Acts.

It is a followup to a bill passed last year allowing schools to arm teachers and other personnel. The provision is intended primarily for small, remote districts with little or no on-site security and limited access to law enforcement. Continue...

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April 4, 2016 8:00 PM

After initially expressing concerns about a bill to ensure nonexempt public records are released, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has signed it.

Ginger Stanley, executive director of the Virginia Press Association, praised the governor’s decision after open-government advocates and lawmakers from both parties last month criticized his resistance.

A September ruling by the Supreme Court of Virginia caused alarm in the General Assembly. The court ruled in Department of Corrections v. Surovell that government agencies could withhold entire records if the records had any information that was exempt from release under the state Freedom of Information Act. The previous, accepted understanding had been that government could redact information that is exempt but had to release nonexempt information. Continue...

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April 4, 2016 7:57 PM

The South Carolina Department of Transportation is reducing the fees it charges for public information requests in an effort to be more transparent.

The state’s transportation agency will no longer charge for staff time in fulfilling requests that take less than two hours to complete. That includes time researching, retrieving and copying information or documents.

Staff time required beyond two hours will be charged at $20 per hour flat rate for each person working on the request. Continue...

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April 4, 2016 7:54 PM

In 28 years as Elmer Township supervisor, Leonard Brown doesn’t recall ever receiving a Freedom of Information Act request.

Clerk Lisa Schmidt has held her seat for 16 years, and she doesn’t either. It’s something they said likely doesn’t come up in a place their size. Only a few hundred people reside in the Sanilac County township — Brown added likely fewer than 600 — and they said they don’t have the same resources as bigger communities.

Elmer Township doesn’t have a website or town hall to host meetings. Its board convenes in a local church every other month. They also don’t hold office hours. They manage their small budget. They keep the roads graveled. But there isn’t much else going on for the “low-key community.” Brown said the precedent for FOIA just isn’t there. Continue...

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FOIA, Michigan, transparency
April 4, 2016 7:49 PM

The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts is taking the U.S. Department of Education to federal court in an effort to force the government agency to cough up information about its student debt collection practices, especially as they relate to minority borrowers.

In a joint Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Boston, the ACLU and the National Consumer Law Center note in their filing that they originally requested the release of Department of Education records last May.

The May 7, 2015, FOIA request sought the release of Department of Education records outlining the department’s “collection practices, the policies governing the private collection agencies (‘PCAs’) with which it contracts and ED’s policies for monitoring the racial impact of its collection policies and practices.” Continue...

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April 4, 2016 7:44 PM

Three Oklahomans were honored Saturday by FOI Oklahoma for their efforts to promote the First Amendment and the free-flow of public information.

Karen Holp, manager of KGOU radio in Norman, was presented the Marian P. Opala First Amendment Award; State Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones received the Sunshine Award; and Ziva Branstetter, of Tulsa, was presented the Ben Blackstock Award.

The organization's Black Hole recognition went to the city of Norman for its refusal to make public the video of University of Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon punching a female student and breaking four of her facial bones. Continue...

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April 1, 2016 11:45 AM

The state’s 20 nonprofits serving people with disabilities shouldn’t be subject to the Colorado Open Records Act, a Senate panel decided Wednesday.

SB 16-038 won unanimous approval in the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee after senators removed the CORA provision. The amended version requires the state auditor to conduct a performance audit of each community-centered board (CCB) within five years. Additional audits would be at the auditor’s discretion.  Continue...

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April 1, 2016 10:23 AM

Digital Democracy, an online platform that offers remote access to hearings and information related to California politics, has added some key new features to keep users up-to-date and informed.

The searchable online database uses voice and facial recognition to identify speakers, including those who give public comment at state legislative hearings.  Continue...

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April 1, 2016 10:05 AM

An appeal to overturn a denied Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request regarding emails sent by a former circuit court judge was rejected Monday by the Montcalm County Board Commissioners.

The board voted 8-1 to deny an appeal submitted by Stanton resident and attorney Ron Finegood regarding a FOIA request he submitted on Feb. 11, which was denied by FOIA coordinator and outgoing Montcalm County Controller-Administrator Chris Hyzer.  Continue...

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April 1, 2016 9:46 AM

Sangamon County Circuit Court Judge John Madonia has sided with Gov. Bruce Rauner in a lawsuit over disclosure of the governor’s appointment calendar, refusing the newspaper’s request for legal fees.

The newspaper sued the governor last fall, one day after the attorney general’s office ruled that the governor’s appointment calendar is a public document. Illinois Times requested the calendar in the spring of 2015, after the governor’s office didn’t respond to questions about why Rauner departed early from a Holocaust remembrance ceremony at the Old State Capitol that included a speech by a death camp survivor. The governor provided a redacted copy of his calendar that didn’t include the names of people with whom he met.  Continue...

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April 1, 2016 9:21 AM

Only 11 percent of New Jersey’s independent local authorities are in full compliance with an online transparency law that took effect on February 1, 2013, according to a study released by the New Jersey Foundation for Open Government (NJFOG).

In 2011, the Office of the State Comptroller released findings that showed only three percent of 587 local government agencies posted financial data online, and more than a third had no online presence. Following release of the report, the New Jersey Legislature passed an online transparency law, which set forth 11 requirements that local government agencies must meet. These requirements include having an online presence and posting basic information such as minutes, resolutions, budgets and meeting notices.  Continue...

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March 31, 2016 10:21 AM

The American Civil Liberties Union and National Consumer Law Center on Tuesday asked a federal court to force the U.S. Department of Education to turn over various documents that show how the government collects student loan debt from defaulted borrowers.

The groups filed a lawsuit against the Education Department, accusing it of violating the Freedom of Information Act by failing to release information about the department’s debt collection policies and its oversight of the private companies hired to collect student loans.  Continue...

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