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 14, 2016 10:35 AM

Raleigh, N.C. – A coalition of animal protection, consumer rights, food safety, and whistleblower protection organizations filed a federal lawsuit today challenging the constitutionality of a North Carolina law designed to deter whistleblowers and undercover investigators from publicizing information about corporate misconduct.

The state legislature overrode a veto of the bill by Governor Pat McCrory in June 2015, and the law took effect on January 1. Under the law, organizations and journalists who conduct undercover investigations, and individuals who expose improper or criminal conduct by North Carolina employers, are susceptible to suit and substantial damages if they make such evidence available to the public or the press.  Continue...

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January 13, 2016 11:24 AM

Washington, D.C., is moving to overhaul its IT operations, placing a special focus on open data.

Mayor Muriel Bowser announced Tuesday that Archana Vemulapalli, chief technology officer of facilities management company Pristine Technologies, will become the district’s new CTO. She’ll replace interim CTO David Bishop, who was filling in after Tegene Baharu resigned in October.  Continue...

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January 13, 2016 11:19 AM

I recently moderated an event for the National Governors Association at the Harvard Kennedy School. In one session, performance management expert Bob Behn told a group of governors’ chiefs of staff that one of the most basic but often overlooked aspects of an efficient organization is a shared definition of key terms. Simple words can take on significantly different meanings to different people, and if a standard definition for these words is not set, collaboration is stifled by miscommunication.

The idea is that any one piece of information can be constructed in various ways — its operational value depends on a shared understanding. The same holds true for data, which is why standards are crucial to any open data policy. Data standards create a common structure that facilitates information sharing, inter-organizational cooperation and the ability to build on past successes — all important ingredients to driving data-smart innovation.  Continue...

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January 13, 2016 11:08 AM

After a public outcry, the Wisconsin Public Records Board voted unanimously on Monday to rescind actions it took on August 24 that were apparently used by the Walker administration to deny a pending public records request.

The actions of the formerly obscure board came to public attention when the Walker administration denied access to public records using a "transitory records" justification. In August, the board had made changes to the definition of transitory records, and the next day the Wisconsin State Journal was denied access to text messages related to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) scandal it had been tracking.  Continue...

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January 13, 2016 11:01 AM

Republican lawmakers in the state Senate have no plans to revisit changes to Wisconsin's open records law in the final months of the legislative session, a top GOP senator said last week. 

But many lawmakers still think some changes to the law are needed, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said in an interview with the Cap Times.  Continue...

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January 13, 2016 10:47 AM

The Federal Communications Commission might be deliberately withholding public records, according to a Republican-led report released this week. 

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee report concluded that the FCC's is either incompetent or intentionally misused redactions under the Freedom of Information Act to withhold internal communication about its controversial Internet regulations.  Continue...

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January 12, 2016 11:19 AM

New Hampshire’s Right to Know law was written when public documents were all pieces of paper. The New Hampshire Senate is set to bring this important law into the digital age.

The Senate will take up HB 606 this week. The bill would ensure that government agencies could not charge huge fees for public records sent electronically. Current law allows agencies fulfilling Right to Know requests to charge the actual cost of photocopies, but some state and local agencies abuse this provision, attempting to collect money for emailed files that they send at no cost.  Continue...

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January 12, 2016 10:25 AM

The House on Monday passed legislation that would create the most sweeping reforms to federal open records laws in nearly a decade. 

Approved by voice vote, the measure would limit exemptions under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) that now allow federal agencies to hold back information.  Continue...

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January 12, 2016 10:17 AM

Florida Sunshine Laws, which dictate transparency in government, could be significantly threatened — all with the change of a single word.

As reported by Noah Pransky of WTSP, a new bill by Sarasota Republican State Rep. Greg Steube is generating concern among open government advocates, who see it as “legislators trying to further erode citizens’ only avenue” of accessing public records.  Continue...

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January 11, 2016 3:32 PM

Remember one year ago when then-Attorney General Eric Holder supposedly tightened restrictions on the Justice Department so it could not easily conduct surveillance on journalists’ emails and phone calls? Well it turns out the Justice Department inserted a large loophole in its internal rules that allows the FBI to completely circumvent those restrictions and spy on journalists in secrecy—and with absolutely no court oversight—using National Security Letters.

And what, exactly, are the Justice Department’s rules for when they can target a journalist with a National Security Letter (NSL)? Well, according the government, that’s classified.  Continue...

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January 11, 2016 11:32 AM

DENVER - Colorado lawmakers will consider at least four measures to expand public access to information during the legislature's 2016 session, which convenes Wednesday.

Those measures include database records; nonprofit records; wage theft transparency and judicial branch records.  Continue...

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January 11, 2016 11:13 AM

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Open-government advocates are criticizing Governor Raimondo's economic incentives process as she prepares to award at least $56 million in subsidies to companies she hopes will create jobs, expand in Rhode Island or move here.

The first-term governor and her aides have spent six months drafting regulations and applications, determining how to review and approve the tax and other incentives to develop new businesses.  Continue...

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