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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June 5, 2015 9:51 AM

Federal lawmakers are once again considering the first major changes to the Freedom of Information Act since 2007 after similar efforts stalled late last year.

John Gavin, a financial analyst based in Plymouth, is paying close attention to how the debate goes. That's because his business relies in large part on information gleaned from FOIA requests submitted to the SEC.

While Gavin is professionally invested in the FOIA process, he's also personally interested in issues surrounding public release of government records. He joined MPR News' Tom Weber to talk about why you should care about FOIA.  Continue>>>

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June 4, 2015 1:28 PM

Little Rock's Metropolitan Housing Alliance Executive Director Rodney Forte, who was charged in November with failing to comply with the Freedom of Information Act, was convicted Thursday of a Class C misdemeanor in the case.

Judge Alice Lightle read a written ruling, calling his behavior a “negligent violation of the Freedom of Information Act." She sentenced Forte to pay a $100 fine and $140 in court costs. A Class C misdemeanor is punishable by a maximum of 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $500. Forte has 30 days to appeal to circuit court.

Lightle said that while the requests may have been "numerous" and "burdensome," they were "proper requests for government documents" that went unfulfilled "within the allowable statutory framework."  Continue>>>

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June 4, 2015 1:12 PM

WASHINGTON, June 3, 2015 – Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work today promised transparency in the Defense Department’s comprehensive review of its laboratory procedures, processes, and protocols associated with inactivating spore-forming anthrax.

Speaking with Pentagon reporters, Work emphasized that public safety is the department’s top concern, and he provided background on the DoD laboratories and their processes.

“Public safety is paramount,” he said. “That’s the No. 1 thing on our mind. Two, we have to get to the bottom of what caused this issue, and we are doing this.”  Continue>>>

 

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June 4, 2015 12:13 PM

The Coalition Wednesday (3) wrote Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (also the other Members and the Mayor), asking that a section of the massive budget support bill for the coming year be dropped before the upcoming final vote for lack of any public input.

The Coalition said a provision exempting teacher evaluation records, held by the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE), from the D.C. public records law, though passed before in temporary form, has never been aired for full review at hearings. Permanent changes in the D.C. open records law, said the Coalition letter, should be made only after close public scrutiny, including the advice of the District’s transparency experts in the Office of Open Government.

Coalition president Kevin Goldberg noted OSSE had never been asked to demonstrate the need for a blanket objection (especially since existing FOIA exemptions assure protection against needless invasions of privacy) or to deal with other potential objections by the public, press or researchers to withdrawing records of one of the District’s largest and most controversial policy areas—teacher quality in the schools. Continue>>>

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June 4, 2015 10:11 AM

As Treasurer of Ohio, I believe taxpayers have a right to know how their tax dollars are spent. All too often, we the people aren’t able to follow our money once we write a check to city hall, the state capital or Washington D.C.

The concept is simple. When government is big, the people are small. But when government is small, the people are big. As someone who sees his boss as the 11.5 million people of Ohio, I am all about power to the people.

So this past December I launched OhioCheckbook.com, which for the first time in Ohio history puts every single state expenditure online. $408 billion of state spending over the past seven fiscal years is now at the fingertips of anyone with an Internet connection – from $2 for a pack of pencils to $2 million for road expenditures, and everything in between.  Continue>>>

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June 4, 2015 10:04 AM

MONTGOMERY - The Alabama House on Tuesday passed legislation to tighten the state law requiring city councils, county commissions and other governing bodies to meet in public.

The bill, which passed 91-4, would prohibit boards and committees from holding a series of meetings of a few members behind closed doors.

The legislation aims to remove a loophole in legislation approved in 2005 that allows a sub-quorum of two or more members of a board to hold secret meetings.  Continue>>>

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June 3, 2015 2:40 PM

AUSTIN - A measure that would make private university police reports subject to Texas' open-government laws was one of a number of transparency measures approved by the Legislature this session.

Senate Bill 308, authored by Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, was filed in response to a student who was fatally shot by University of Incarnate Word police officers in San Antonio, and another incident at Rice University.

Those police departments refused to give up records because, as private universities, they were not subject to the state's open records law.  Continue>>>

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June 3, 2015 2:40 PM

AUSTIN - A measure that would make private university police reports subject to Texas' open-government laws was one of a number of transparency measures approved by the Legislature this session.

Senate Bill 308, authored by Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, was filed in response to a student who was fatally shot by University of Incarnate Word police officers in San Antonio, and another incident at Rice University.

Those police departments refused to give up records because, as private universities, they were not subject to the state's open records law.  Continue>>>

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June 3, 2015 2:23 PM

HARTFORD — A bipartisan bill that seeks greater accountability and transparency from the operators of the state's 22 public charter schools got resounding approval in both the Senate and the House Tuesday and will now move to the governor's desk.

"I think it's critical if we are going to have charter schools and add charter schools ... that we have transparency," Sen. Beth Bye, co-chairwoman of the legislature's appropriations committee, said early Tuesday morning. "When you take public money and invest in anything, we need to have utter transparency."  Continue>>>

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June 3, 2015 2:16 PM

A House panel passed a bill aimed at making the FCC more transparent on Wednesday over the objections of Democrats who opposed a trio of Republican amendments on what was originally a bipartisan measure.

The FCC Process Reform Act was approved by the House Energy and Commerce committee through a voice vote.

The bill institutes reforms to the way the commission goes about its business and comes after the FCC handed down its controversial net neutrality rules.  Continue>>>

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June 2, 2015 12:24 PM

New documents shed light on a quiet campaign by federal agencies to shape legislation that would strengthen the Freedom of Information Act.

Emails between staff for the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and congressional aides, obtained by Greenwire under FOIA, show financial regulators' heightened interest in and attempts to change S. 337 and H.R. 653, two bills moving on Capitol Hill that would reform the public records law.  Continue>>>

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June 2, 2015 12:15 PM

The Department of Health and Human Services last week unveiled a redesign of its data repository, HealthData.gov.

The site aims to make government health-related data sets more accessible to the public for analysis; the new HealthData.gov migrated old content to DKAN, an open-source, Drupal-based platform built by NuCivic, a tech company based in New York. Continue>>>

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