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 6, 2017 5:57 PM

An Oklahoma County Judge ruled in favor of Governor Mary Fallin in one of the lawsuits filed against her and her actions regarding providing open records.

The ACLU of Oklahoma is representing two parties in a lawsuit and asked a judge for summary judgement in their favor after a local journalist and an Oklahoma City advocacy group had been waiting more than 900 days for records they requested from the governor’s office.

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February 6, 2017 5:55 PM

Kansas news organizations and other open-government advocates came to the state Capitol on Thursday, pushing for more transparency in government meetings and reduced costs for records.

The groups are supporting Senate bills 86 and 70 in this year’s legislative session.

SB 70 clarifies what elected officials would have to tell the public when they meet in closed sessions.

SB 86 would place new limits on the prices public agencies can charge for copies of documents requested under the Kansas Open Records Act.

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February 6, 2017 5:47 PM

A bill introduced Tuesday in the state Legislature could pull North Dakota University System sexual discrimination cases from the public record.

As introduced, Senate Bill 2295 would add new language to the North Dakota Century Code exempting records related to complaints or investigations under Title IX — the federal law prohibiting sexual discrimination in federally funded education systems — from public disclosure. The bill also would amend existing code to extend public record exemptions to cover data produced from university research studies. Both sections would apply to institutions under the control of the State Board of Higher Education.

Donna Smith, the Title IX coordinator for the University of North Dakota, said the records produced in cases of alleged sexual discrimination apply to cases of sexual harassment and assault. Smith said current public access to such records is a “concern for many people I visit with.”

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February 3, 2017 5:25 PM

On Wednesday legislation aimed at government transparency was resurrected in the Michigan State House.

The bipartisan bills would allow you to formally request information from the governor’s office down to the state legislature. However the bills may prompt a showdown between the State House and the State Senate.

House lawmakers from both parties are putting State Senators on the spot, putting them on notice that there needs to be more government transparency in Michigan.

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February 3, 2017 5:20 PM

New Mexicans soon will have more insight into the private business dealings of their public officials.

The Secretary of State’s Office plans to post online later this month the latest finance reports filed by legislators and other top government officials.

Publishing the mandatory reports online is a shift in policy for the office. It stopped posting the filings in 2012 under then-Secretary of State Dianna Duran, a Republican who later resigned from office before pleading guilty to felony corruption charges.

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February 3, 2017 5:17 PM

A group of senators on Thursday briefly debated a touchy subject — whether they should prohibit themselves from using their campaign funds for personal use.

The debate happened during a meeting of the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee on the Senate floor just after adjournment, prompting a complaint from Sen. Amanda F. Chase, R-Chesterfield, that holding the meeting on the floor was not transparent for the public.

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February 2, 2017 10:55 PM

A court ruling in St. Louis County last month found that Missouri public records laws do not allow government agencies to charge fees for the time they spend reviewing public records and blacking out information before turning them over to the people who requested them.

The Missouri Sunshine Law says the requester can be billed for the time it takes to locate records, but the government has the responsibility to segregate open parts from closed.

Because public records such as police reports often contain pieces of information that can be kept confidential, such as Social Security numbers, public agencies typically review those records and remove sensitive parts before releasing them.

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February 2, 2017 10:44 PM

Making government data ­available offers much value, to both citizens and an active democracy.

The digital age and the internet have ushered in many changes to our global culture, particularly when it comes to expectations for information access. Technology is readily available to aid in the ease and efficiency of data analysis, analytics and distribution, which citizens now expect.

Government transparency means financial and public information is readily understandable and readily found. It means taxpayers can see how public funds are used and hold their elected officials accountable.

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February 2, 2017 10:32 PM

The Environment Protection Agency collected about 200 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests during the first week of the Trump administration, and more than 20 percent of them are about the new president, climate change and social media.

Larry Gottesman, director of the national FOIA program at EPA, said his agency receives about 12,000 requests per year. According to FOIAOnline, since the beginning of October, the start of fiscal 2017, the EPA has received roughly 3,200 requests.

Gottesman said the uptick is the result of a new administration, and that the FOIA requests his office is collecting range from well wishes of support to questions about the nomination of Rex Tillerson as the new Secretary of State.

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February 1, 2017 2:36 PM

The Air Force will pay $25,000 to cover attorney fees for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation in a Freedom of Information Act battle.

A federal district court judge in New Mexico ordered the payment last week and told the Air Force Academy to re-examine its archives for documents relating to the foundation, which goes by the acronym MRFF, and its founder Mikey Weinstein that would fall under the group's 2011 Freedom of Information Act request.

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February 1, 2017 2:30 PM

The Iowa Utilities Board plans to seek public records exemptions from the Legislature so it can communicate more thoroughly with utilities and federal regulatory agencies about cybersecurity and cyberattacks.

Under the current public records law, information about cybersecurity at utility companies is not shielded from the public, IUB Chairwoman Geri Huser told the House Commerce Committee Monday. That limits board members and IUB staff from complete access to cybersecurity information, such as how utilities protect against cyberattacks and respond in the event of an attack.

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February 1, 2017 2:28 PM

Rep. Phil Phelps, D-Flushing, says it took months for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to respond to his Freedom of Information Act request for documents related to the Flint water crisis. The department initially said the documents did not exist, but months later the lawmaker received tens of thousands of documents the agency had withheld.

Phelps sent a request in early September 2015 to the DEQ as well as the Michigan Department of Treasury and the city of Flint. Phelps said his FOIAs asked for any documents relating to officials knowing that Flint River water was safe for use before switching the city’s source from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to the river. (Flint switched its water source to the Flint River in April 2014.)

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