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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July 15, 2016 11:39 AM

A task force looking at possible changes to North Dakota’s open records laws is considering whether the attorney general should be able to penalize government agencies that hold illegal private meetings or don’t share records.

The group of lawyers, newspaper editors and law officers is formulating draft legislation to be considered by lawmakers next year, The Bismarck Tribune (http://bit.ly/29EwmsO ) reported. The task force is seeking to update laws for the digital age and deal with some controversial open records issues, such as allowing correspondence between legislators and correspondence between legislators and applicants for major posts at public universities to be open records. Continue...

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July 15, 2016 11:33 AM

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, sitting en banc in Detroit Free Press v. Department of Justice, has concluded that individuals have sufficient privacy interests in their police booking photos to preclude their release under the Freedom of Information Act. The decision, which produced an unusual lineup among the court’s justices, is available here.

Judge Cook wrote for the majority, joined by Chief Judge Cole and Judges Guy, Gibbons, Rogers, Sutton, McKeague, Kethledge and White. Continue...

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July 15, 2016 11:25 AM

In the 2015 fiscal year, the U.S. federal government processed 769,903 Freedom of Information requests. The government fully fulfilled only 22.6 percent of those requests; 44.9 percent of federal FOIA requests were either partially or fully denied. Even though the government denied at least part of more than 345,000 requests, it only received 14,639 administrative appeals.

In an attempt to make the FOIA appeals process easier and help reporters and others understand how and why their requests are being denied, MuckRock is on Thursday launching a project to catalog and explain the exceptions both the federal and state governments are using to deny requests. Continue...

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July 15, 2016 11:17 AM

A D.C. Council committee roundtable chaired by Vincent Orange (D-At Large) on July 13 listened to a crowded hearing room packed with residents angry about illegal construction and weak consumer protection by city regulators in the Department of Consumer & Regulatory Affairs (DCRA).

The Open Government Coalition testified on basic problems for those seeking simple information. Building permits (approved or pending, plus the full file of plans) must by law be posted online but--years after the requirement took effect--remain unavailable. Continue...

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July 14, 2016 11:52 AM

Now that we have achieved Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) reforms in the United States, it's critical that we use what we've learned over the past decade of releasing data online to improve not only the process but public knowledge itself. Our Congress has once again affirmed that accessing information is a right, not a privilege, and that the right is enjoyed by all citizens — not just media or industry players with advantage or influence.

In that context, governments should connect the demand expressed in freedom of information requests to the proactive disclosure of open data. This statement might look like common sense, but it's still not happening in far too many cities, states and federal governments. Continue...

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July 14, 2016 11:20 AM

President Barack Obama recently signed a law to improve the Freedom of Information Act, but the Senate Judiciary Committee heard Tuesday that the all-time low for unfulfilled requests occurred just last year.

The committee chaired by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, convened this morning to look at FOIA 50 years after its adoption by President Lyndon Johnson. Continue...

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July 14, 2016 11:12 AM

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) signed a bill into law on Monday that makes police dashboard camera and body camera footage exempt from the public record.

House Bill 972 does make such video accessible to people who can be seen or heard in it, along with their personal representatives ― but they must file a request to obtain the footage. If the request is denied, the petitioners must go before the state’s superior court. Requests can be denied to protect a person’s safety or reputation, or if the recording is part of an active investigation. Continue...

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July 14, 2016 11:04 AM

The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation filed a lawsuit today against the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality for delaying for months the release of emails related to the Flint water crisis.

The lawsuit comes after the Mackinac Center for Public Policy waited since March for the Department (MDEQ) to respond to a simple public records request. Rick Snyder’s office released in June the final batch of Flint-related emails in an “effort to increase transparency and make information more accessible to the public,” but the MDEQ still remains unresponsive to the Center’s FOIA request. Continue...

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July 13, 2016 1:56 PM

State lawmakers continued their search Tuesday for ways to help cities, counties, school districts and other government agencies deal with increasing demands for large volumes of public records, some of those from people whose motives they question.

Lawmakers earlier this year refused to pass a bill that would have let local governments limit how much time employees spend processing requests and to prioritize the order in which they are handled. Continue...

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July 13, 2016 1:51 PM

The Brigham Young University Police Department has "full-spectrum" law enforcement authority under state law: Sworn officers may stop, search, arrest and use physical force against people.

But BYU police do not face the same requirements for transparency as officers across the state: The department is not subject to the state's open-records laws, according to a decision by state record administrators. Continue...

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July 13, 2016 1:39 PM

"We have reached a tipping point – a crisis situation – when it comes to freedom of information in this country. We are frogs in the kettle of slowly heating water," the head of the UA Journalism School, David Cuillier, told Congress on Tuesday.

Despite recent improvements, "the law is broken. FOIA has been co-opted as a tool of secrecy, not transparency," he told the Senate Judiciary Committee. Continue...

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July 11, 2016 11:28 AM

"Are you registered to vote?" Dave Tessitor asked a man as he walked past the library in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood.

"Yes," the man said, not stopping.

Tessitor fell in step. "We're collecting signatures to put a referendum on the November ballot," he said, walking up the street with the man. He only turned back several blocks later, the cargo pocket of his shorts one pamphlet lighter. He shrugged and smiled. And then a young couple came out of the library. "Excuse me, are you registered to vote?" Continue...

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