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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November 17, 2015 7:38 PM

In order to be transparent, many on-campus groups are required to comply with the Open and Public Meetings Act, a Utah law that consists of seven key provisions. Five of these groups affect the majority of campus — students and faculty.

While these bodies are required to receive annual training on the act in order to ensure compliance, none of the groups are completely compliant with the provisions. Continue...

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November 17, 2015 7:31 PM

Advocates of open government met in Orlando on Monday to discuss ways to fight what they describe as a growing trend toward government secrecy in Florida.

The Florida Sunshine Coalition, part of the Florida First Amendment Foundation of Tallahassee, called for increased cooperation among newspapers, TV stations, nonprofit groups, academic institutions and law firms to battle a rise in efforts to thwart the state's long tradition of open government.

And it all may come together in time for a proposed "Sunshine Day" in Tallahassee on Jan. 26. Continue...
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November 17, 2015 7:26 PM

For close to a decade Jeff Lewis has been working on Augusta's city website and keeping up with the fast changing world of technology to make it more convenient for you.

"As far as paying bills, looking up documents records," IT department employee Jeff Lewis said.

A 311 App, mapping app, a more user friendly website are all being awarded compliments, but it's what people in Augusta want that the city is preparing for. Continue...
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November 15, 2015 8:28 PM

A state senator from Cape Neddick is hoping her initiative aimed at improving government transparency will be revived this week.

Democrat Dawn Hill will have to convince at least one Republican leader to support her efforts to enhance the flow of information between state agencies and the Legislature. The legislative council rejected Hill's bill last month along party lines, but the sponsor says there are new developments that warrant a second look.

The panel split five to five along party lines in Hill's bill, but Hill says recent events underscore the need for more transparency. Continue...

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November 15, 2015 8:23 PM

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum late last month announced the formation of a Public Records Law Reform Task Force to review and recommend improvements to Oregon's public records laws. In doing so, she expressed confidence "that this representative group will provide real recommendations for the Legislature to improve transparency and access to information about our government."

Representative? Of what, exactly? Certainly not a broad cross-section of political thought, that's for sure.

Of the 17 members of her task force — which includes Rosenblum herself as chair — only two are actual Republicans. Eight of the members represent public agencies — you know, precisely people with the most to fear from government transparency. Two more seats are reserved for representatives from the Oregon Student Association and the Oregon State Public Interest Research Group, both notoriously leftist activist organizations. Continue...

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November 15, 2015 8:15 PM

When a Towson University student journalist asked for emails about how school officials dealt with allegations that someone had videotaped the swim team getting undressed, university officials asked him to pay more than $2,000 for the records request.

The student, Cody Boteler, asked to have the fees waived. When the university did not promptly respond, the senior wrote a scathing editorial in the Towerlight student publication, saying it was "asinine" to ask a student journalist to pay so much.

It was just the sort of the dispute the state's new public information act ombudsman was supposed to resolve. But the Maryland attorney general's office hasn't hired one, and Gov. Larry Hogan's administration has yet to authorize funding for the position. Continue...

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November 15, 2015 8:10 PM

Wisconsin watchdog groups and Democratic lawmakers say there's a better way for the state to rewrite its campaign finance laws than the one Republicans are poised to pass on Monday.

The bill Republicans will likely send to the governor's desk would allow unlimited donations to political parties and let candidates coordinate fundraising and strategy with outside groups that keep their donors secret.

It would codify recent decisions by the Wisconsin Supreme Court and federal district courts. Continue...

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November 15, 2015 8:06 PM

The public can inspect voted ballots in Colorado. So says a state Court of Appeals decision in 2011 and state legislation enacted the following year.

But some counties are making it prohibitively expensive for at least one election watchdog to obtain the records he says are needed to independently audit the accuracy of voting systems.

Election integrity activist Harvie Branscomb made Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) requests of eight counties for ballot records from the Nov. 3 election. As indicated by email threads posted on his blog, Douglas County wanted an upfront deposit of $4,000 to examine about 88,000 ballot scans for marks that could identify individual voters and then redact any such marks from the copies. Continue...
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November 13, 2015 4:30 PM

Open government in Florida is under attack and the Florida First Amendment Foundation (FAF) is taking action.

Gathering in Orlando on Monday, Nov. 16, FAF and other members of the Florida Sunshine Coalition will discuss the issues and open government challenges Florida citizens face today and those the Coalition anticipates for the 2016 legislative session. They will decide on a platform for the Coalition and develop a plan for moving forward.

The Coalition wants to remind Florida's elected officials just how far they have strayed from the Florida Government in the Sunshine laws instituted more than 40 years ago.

"This year alone, we've seen the Legislature acknowledge that its redistricting process was carried out in unconstitutional secrecy," said Barbara A. Petersen, FAF President. "That intentional behavior has cost taxpayers $11 million so far."

Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet have paid out more than $1.3 million in taxpayer dollars in fees and settlements to rectify violations of our constitutional right of access to the meetings and records of our government. A full one-third of the bills passed by the 2015 Legislature exempted previously public information from disclosure.

Florida lawmakers, who take a pledge to uphold Florida law, have exempted more than 1,100 exemptions as an end-run around the intent of Sunshine.

Most recently, the Center for Public Integrity gave Florida a D- for transparency and accountability.

Speakers at the Orlando Nov. 16 summit include award-winning journalist Carl Hiaasen; Mary Ellen Klas, Bureau Chief, Miami Herald; and Sandra F. Chance, Executive Director, Brechner Center for Freedom of Information, University of Florida; and Petersen.

Reservations to attend the summit are required. Please email: fl.sunshine.coalition@gmail.com for availability.

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November 12, 2015 10:16 PM

If you’ve seen news reports on suspicious state contracts or chemical waste pits or officials’ text messages in the Waco biker shootout, you may notice a recurring theme: Government records obtained through the Texas Public Information Act.

Fortunately, our state’s public information law, created in the early 1970s, presumes government records are open unless a specific exemption in the law keeps the documents off limits.

The public has a right to know. That means all citizens – not only journalists – can access government records. Continue...

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November 12, 2015 10:10 PM

There have been quite a few accusations of government entities big and small violating Idaho’s open meeting laws recently.

That’s not a trend journalists like to see. Continue... 

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November 12, 2015 10:05 PM

A final redraft of a long-in-the-works bill to improve access to public records in Massachusetts could be introduced to the House floor soon. It's about time.

People connected to the process are saying the bill’s language will provide timely access while taking into account agency and municipal concerns over aggressive deadlines and limits to recouping costs. A bill to satisfy all sides?

With final revisions drawn up out of the public’s view? The devil, as they say, is in the details. Continue...
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