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

October 26, 2015 12:32 PM

Most kids learn the grade school civics lesson about how a bill becomes a law. What those lessons usually neglect to show is how legislation today is often birthed on a lobbyist’s desk.

But even for expert researchers, journalists, and government transparency groups, tracing a bill’s lineage isn’t easy—especially at the state level. Last year alone, there were 70,000 state bills introduced in 50 states. It would take one person five weeks to even read them all. Groups that do track state legislation usually focus narrowly on a single topic, such as abortion, or perhaps a single lobby groups. Continue...


October 26, 2015 12:28 PM

As Denver police get ready to introduce its body camera program next month, the department must do a better job of defining public access to the video.

The department's seven-page draft policy that covers everything from when cameras must be turned on to how the video shall be uploaded doesn't mention anything about public access. Yet these matters of privacy and transparency as it relates to body cam video are cropping up everywhere in the country. Continue...

October 23, 2015 2:23 PM

Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature are pushing a bill that would change the state’s so-called John Doe law, which allows for criminal investigations -- like two that were related to Gov. Scott Walker -- to be done in secret.

This week, GOP Rep. David Craig of suburban Milwaukee insisted on a radio talk show that the changes made by his bill would not exempt politicians in any way from John Doe investigations. Continue...


October 23, 2015 2:21 PM

If you've ever filed a Freedom of Information request with a public agency in New York, you probably know that it can be way too hard to get the goods.

Government agencies have all sorts of opportunities to delay the release of public records, and many departments — particularly in Albany — are quite good at leveraging the system to delay, delay, delay. Advocates, lawyers, journalists and members of the public at large who have had the experience of being put off by faceless bureaucrats trying to please their bosses could become discouraged from even filing FOIL requests. Continue...


October 23, 2015 2:18 PM

A new bill set to be presented at the next legislative session in Maryland's state house aims for more transparency when it comes to law enforcement militarization according to it's sponsor, Sen Bryan Simontaire (R) D-31.

Simontaire said he started looking into the program that supplies military equipment to local police departments and sheriff's offices after the events in Ferguson and Baltimore. Continue...

October 23, 2015 2:13 PM

The nation's charter schools largely are created, overseen and policed by pro-charter advocates, resulting in "an epidemic of fraud, waste, and mismanagement that would not be tolerated in [traditional] public schools," according to the Center for Media and Democracy.

A report released Wednesday shows that taxpayers lack access to key information about how state and federal dollars are used to fuel charter school growth. The Wisconsin-based advocacy organization created the report based on charter school data collected from 12 states and the federal government. In many cases, data was incomplete or agencies failed to comply with requests for records, according to the report. Continue...


October 23, 2015 2:08 PM

The wave of public outcry over incidents of police brutality has made it clear that citizens want their police departments to be held to a far higher level of public scrutiny than at any time in the past.

Apparently, there are at least a few lawmakers on Beacon Hill who haven't been paying attention. Their intent is to throw up more impediments against the public's right to know about cases of police misconduct. Continue...

October 22, 2015 4:44 PM

Michigan is making law enforcement agencies report more details of their civil asset forfeiture programs and making it a little bit harder for them keep property they confiscate from residents.

Gov. Rick Snyder on Tuesday signed a seven-bill package that supporters see as a first step in a larger effort to reform the state's civil asset forfeiture laws, which allow police agencies to profit from seized property linked to a crime even if the owner is never charged or convicted. Continue...

October 22, 2015 4:23 PM

Pittsburgh councilman Dan Gilman’s campaign finance and ethics reform bills received final approval from the City Council this week.

He said the bills are part of a “new era of transparency” in city government.

One of the bills revives the city’s defunct Ethics Hearing Board, which Gilman said hasn’t met in at least five years. It also puts whistleblower protections in place for those who report misconduct. Continue...

October 22, 2015 4:01 PM

A bill that would change Pennsylvania's Right to Know law to require additional disclosures for state-related universities and curb some records access for prison inmates passed the Senate in a unanimous vote Wednesday.

The bill makes a number of changes to the law, including three key revisions. Continue...

October 22, 2015 3:48 PM

During the keynote address at Flight, Twitter’s 2015 Developer Conference, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey made a commitment to “reboot” Twitter’s relationship with the transparency sector.

Even more encouraging to us here at Sunlight was that he specifically named Politwoops as an example.  

“Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey today acknowledged his company’s responsibility to empower organizations that advocate for transparency and accountability in government, and specifically cited Politwoops,” said Sunlight Foundation President Chris Gates. “We look forward to rebooting the dialogue with Twitter about how it can play an active role in promoting openness and transparency around the world.” Continue...


October 22, 2015 3:34 PM

DCOGC President Kevin Goldberg testified to the D.C. legislature Wednesday this week on the latest proposals from the mayor that would limit public access to police body camera video, calling them "unnecessary and overbroad."

He also noted the process leading up to the proposals — directed by the Council to involve community input — in fact consisted of only two meetings with little revealed. These sessions simply "did not allow for adequate debate and discussion" and were "not an acceptable participatory process" for such important issues of the public right to know, he said. Community members of the advisory panel wrote D.C. officials a month ago with these concerns, yet they were never addressed. Continue...


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