NFOIC's State FOIA Friday for December 21, 2012

December 21, 2012 1:03 PM

State FOIA Friday News A few state FOIA and local open government news items selected from many of interest that we might or might not have drawn attention to earlier in the week:

SC lawmaker tries again to reform FOI law

COLUMBIA, SC - A state lawmaker is trying again to strengthen South Carolina's public records laws. For the second year in a row, Rep. Bill Taylor has proposed a measure that would bar public agencies, governments and school districts from charging excessive fees for public records and require them to respond more quickly.

Visit WBTW.com for the rest.

NJ Lawmakers:Public records vote delayed until Feb.

TRENTON — Advocates for updating New Jersey’s public records and public meeting laws say they’ll try again in February, after votes were scrapped Thursday in the state Senate. The updates to the Open Public Records Act would ensure unedited audio or video recordings of public meetings are public records, exempt some email addresses from public disclosure and create conditions under which someone who wins access to public records by going to Superior Court might not be award attorney’s fees, among other changes. It would also specify that information about grant reviewers, donations and E-ZPass records for state vehicles are public records.

Visit MyCentralJersey.com for the rest.

PA launches public records website

HARRISBURG — Finding out how much Pennsylvania pays a corrections officer or a contractor that built a bridge near your home is not always as easy as some say it should be, but Gov. Tom Corbett is hoping that changes with the launch of a new website. Corbett said the website, PennWATCH, will make it easier for the public to learn about the budgets of state agencies, how much they are spending, and who they are paying. They’ll also have an easier time finding out how many people are employed by state agencies and what they are paid.

Visit TimesOnline.com for the rest.

NJ Watchdog: Town releases public records after 3-year, $500G fight

After four years and more than a half-million dollars in legal fees, Raritan Borough has turned over its 2008 employee payroll list in a computerized format — a victory for Gannett New Jersey newspapers that open government advocates say is a milestone in making more government information useful public. But such openness could be weakened under a state Senate bill slated for a vote today. The bill would make the awarding of legal fees — usually the only way a citizen can afford to fight city hall — optional. ... The issue over how much the information should cost is perhaps the most important aspect of this case, according to N.J. Foundation for Open Government President Walter Leurs, an attorney specializing in the state’s so-called sunshine laws.

Visit Asbury Park Press for the rest.

CA: Agencies’ bills from law firms are public records, courts rule

Looks like it could be easier to find out how much government agencies are paying their outside lawyers. Public agencies usually refuse to disclose the bills they get from outside law firms until cases have been settled. They usually rely on the “pending litigation” exemption in the California Public Records Act. Now the Second District Court of Appeal has upheld a Los Angeles Superior Court ruling that the “pending litigation” exemption doesn’t apply, according to a story Nov. 19 in the legal newspaper Metropolitan News-Enterprise.

Visit Visalia Times-Delta for the rest.

Jindal administration continues to skirt records openness

Louisiana’s public records law gives the governor a sweeping exemption that can keep many issues secret, but the administration of Gov. Bobby Jindal appears to be breaking new ground on ways to keep items hidden from citizens. Administration officials have pushed a wider records exemption – extending their claims across multiple agencies to conceal documents. A Jindal lawyer encouraged LSU officials to shield records about budget decisions. And top members of the governor’s staff have turned to private email accounts in some instances, making their communication more difficult to track or to even know whether it exists.

Visit Tri-Parish Times for the rest.

Jindal administration dodges around Open Records

Keeping the public out the loop seems to be an ongoing theme for Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration. The governor campaigned on transparency. But soon after being elected, he pushed through legislation that made his office exempt from public records laws.

Visit Daily World for the rest.

TN lawsuit demands DCS records on children who died

The Tennessean, joined by a coalition of the state’s newspapers, television stations and other media organizations, filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the state Department of Children’s Services, alleging the agency is violating the law by refusing to make public the records of children who died after being brought to the agency’s attention. Filed in Davidson County Chancery Court, the lawsuit asks the court to order DCS to explain why the records were not provided. And it asks that the department immediately give those records to the court so a judge can review them and redact any confidential information, and for the records to then be opened to the public for review.

Visit The Tennessean for the rest.

Released minutes prove what many suspected — meeting could have been open to public

NASHUA, N.H. — Elected officials meet behind closed doors all the time. Sometimes it’s to talk about the reputation of someone who’s not a member of the board, or to talk about a real estate acquisition, or maybe contract negotiations, or a personnel matter. ... Every now and then we get a glimpse that confirms what we suspect, that much of what is talked about in a non-public session could have been talked about openly and publicly. Take the case of a meeting of the Nashua Board of Aldermen.

Visit New England First Amendment Coalition for the rest.