NFOIC's State FOIA Friday for October 11, 2013

October 11, 2013 9:26 AM

From NFOIC:  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. While you're at it, be sure to check out State FOIA Friday Archives.

Michigan lawmakers approve new limits on public records, remove controversial 'journalist' definition

image of Access keyLANSING, MI -- The Michigan House on Wednesday approved a bill seeking to slow "ambulance chasing" attorneys from using public traffic accident records to find new clients. In doing so, lawmakers removed controversial language that would have defined who is or is not a journalist. The Michigan Press Association and other First Amendment advocates had raised red flags over House Bill 4770, which as introduced would have prevented immediate access to accident reports for most individuals but included exceptions for certain groups, including newspaper, radio or television employees.

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Idaho judge rules against media groups in hospital case

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A federal judge presiding over an antitrust lawsuit between two major Idaho health care providers has declared that trial testimony and documents can remain hidden from public view, providing attorneys make a compelling case for secrecy. U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill ruled Tuesday after a coalition of Idaho news organizations challenged a broad protective order approved by the judge for documents and testimony leading up to the trial.

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Lawsuit over mug-shot web sites captures a public records dilemma, Ohio

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Debra Lashaway is realizing that the Internet never forgets. Years after she was exonerated of a theft charge, she remains online through a lasting image of her arrest: a mug shot.

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Times-News co-sponsors Idaho open government workshop

Public documents are the backbone to government transparency, but sometimes wading through what is or isn’t open can be confusing. To help the public navigate Idaho’s public records law, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden and Idahoans for Openness in Government are holding a workshop for those who want to learn more about access to public records and meetings.

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Texas appeals court hears Bexar open records case

AUSTIN — An appellate court heard clashing arguments Wednesday over Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson's long-running refusal to disclose official communications in his private email accounts. The Precinct 4 commissioner, who in 2012 was ordered by a trial court in Austin to release transportation policy-related emails sought by the San Antonio Express-News, insisted anew that the communications were not subject to the Texas Public Information Act. State and newspaper lawyers countered that the messages must be shared because they were official business.

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Editorial: N.M. Governor must be more open about travel

It's a problem that dates back to at least the Richardson administration, and remains unresolved to this day: the governor being less than transparent with their daily schedule and travel plans. The Associated Press reported last week that in response to its request for travel records, information provided by the Susana Martinez administration for political trips not related to state business was incomplete and inconsistent with previous statements.

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Sarasota development review panel to meet in sunshine

SARASOTA - A committee charged with helping to shape Sarasota developments will no longer hold private meetings before signing off on projects in public, City Attorney Bob Fournier said this week. Fournier has advised members of the Development Review Committee to end that practice, he said, and make all meetings public, after open government advocates complained last month that the DRC appeared to be violating Florida's Sunshine Law.

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Wis. Senate sends AG ‘sunshine’ legislation to governor

MADISON, Wis. (Legal Newsline) — The Wisconsin Senate has passed legislation aimed at bringing transparency to the state’s hiring of private sector attorneys on a contingency fee basis. On Tuesday, senators concurred 23-10 and sent the legislation, the Transparency in Private Attorney Contracting Act, or Assembly Bill 27, to Gov. Scott Walker for his signature.

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Vermont announces 'open data' pilot project

As Vermont’s state government takes its first baby step into the giant world of open data, the state’s civic hackers are lining up to help. Harry Bell of Vermont’s Department of Information and Innovation announced Tuesday that the state would be stepping out of its website shell and into the “open data” movement — a growing international trend toward making government data more available to the public.

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Hendersonville (Tennessee) public records ordinance clears hurdle

Citizens may soon be able to make their own copies of public records at Hendersonville City Hall, but would still have to pay a labor charge for retrieving and redacting those records if the process takes more than an hour. Hendersonville leaders passed an ordinance late Tuesday outlining how public records will be handled. The measure passed 9 to 3, but will require another vote before it takes effect.

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Asheville, Buncombe (NC) crime databases offer access to public records

Two relatively new online databases, from the Asheville Police Department and Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office, offer extensive access to crime reports. Both use a program called Police to Citizen (or P2C) that allows users to look up information on crimes in their neighborhoods and search for alleged and convicted offenders by name. Buncombe’s P2C has been online for a little more than a year and was recently enhanced to include more thorough information, according to Kim Pruett, Buncombe County’s director of information technology. Asheville’s P2C, implemented in collaboration between Asheville and Buncombe IT staff, was launched in August.

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Who’s got that public record you want? Louisiana government begins to comply with new law

State Rep. Chris Broadwater typed away on a Dell laptop last week at his legislative office in downtown Hammond. Broadwater was checking to see which government agencies had complied with a measure, House Concurrent Resolution 129, that the state Legislature approved unanimously in June. Sponsored by Broadwater, it requires government agencies to make it easy for citizens to find out online how they can file public records requests, by identifying who on the website is the custodian of those records.

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Spokane (Washington) Public Schools to pay $130,000 in public records dispute

Spokane Public Schools will pay a Spokane woman with a history of needling officials $130,000 after failing to comply with a 2009 public records request. Laurie Rogers is a private tutor, frequent critic and describes herself as an advocate for transparent government. She had filed a request for all “promotional materials on the 2006 and 2009 bonds and levies.”

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Mich. bills to limit access to juvenile records, accident reports move forward

LANSING — Two bills that would make it more difficult or impossible for the public to access the criminal records of juveniles and accident records from police passed overwhelmingly in the Legislature on Wednesday. The first bill, passed unanimously in the Senate, would shut out the public from access to the criminal records of juveniles available on a Michigan State Police-run online data base. The records could be released to other law enforcement agencies and employers who do criminal background checks on potential employees.

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Vermont gun group responds to Burlington rejection with second FOIA

Undeterred by the City of Burlington’s refusal to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request, the Vermont Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs has filed a second FOIA request, the group reported yesterday on its website. The original request was for documents and correspondence related to the city’s undermining of state preemption laws for firearms. That effort was reported in this column on September 21, and produced a response from the city three days later.

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Former Polk County deputy suing sheriff over public records

LAKELAND | A former Polk County sheriff's deputy who was fired earlier this year is suing Polk Sheriff Grady Judd for not providing public records, according to court filings. Shawnee McCawley requested copies of emails and text messages from eight Sheriff's Office employees in an Aug. 9 letter sent by certified mail, according to the lawsuit.

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