Sunshine Week 2013 News

Sunshine WeekSunshine Week is a national initiative to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. Participants include news media, civic groups, libraries, nonprofits, schools and others interested in the public's right to know.

Below, you'll find a list of and links to articles and editorials about and in recognition of Sunshine Week 2013 and the events and observances that are being held in the states.

 


March 16 - 18

Shining a light on FOIA practices: In celebration of Sunshine Week, a number of organizations released Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) reviews. These reviews, conducted by National Security Archives, the Center for Effective Government, Cause of Action, Associated Press, and OpenTheGovernment.org, indicate how agencies measure up when it comes to providing the public with information.

Sunshine Week, Clery Act promote public information access: One initiative of the week is to make sure campus police publish an annual security report, have a public crime log and issue timely warnings in instances of emergency, according to the Clery Act. The Clery Act is a federal law, originally known as the Campus Security Act, which requires colleges and universities across the country to provide information about crime on campus, according to SecurityOnCampus.org.

Access must not carry a price tag: The aim is to remind U.S. citizens that their government is required by the Freedom of Information Act to deliberate and take official actions in public view. In California, that concept was expanded in 1968 when the public's access to most government documents was assured by the California Public Records Act. In passing the act, the Legislature proclaimed "access to information concerning the conduct of the people's business is a fundamental and necessary right of every person in this state."

‘Sunshine Week’ gets cloudy: To celebrate, a spokesman for the state Development Services Agency refused to answer questions from a group of reporters concerning public funding provided to JobsOhio, saying instead that reporters should “submit” their questions to him individually and wait for a response.

Only one law enforcement agency fully complies with public records request: One week after Port City Daily sent public records requests to five municipal law enforcement agencies, only one agency fully complied with the public records request.

Pensions, lawsuits, gifts revealed on new city hall site for Sunshine Week: Marking Sunshine Week in San Diego, Mayor Bob Filner on Thursday unveiled a new section of the city website that makes good on his promise for open government—putting in one place information on the pensions being paid city retirees as well as all lawsuits involving City Hall.

Celebrating International Sunshine Week in Oakland with more open government: This past week was “International Sunshine Week,” a national initiative dedicated to educating the American public about the importance of open and accessible government.

Government records are public domain: "The only stuff that's tough is the stuff that takes time to assemble," he said. He said he rarely ever handles Freedom of Information requests made to the city of Aberdeen. That's because there are virtually no formal requests made, save for some from the media.

Sunshine Week from Austin: It’s not a perfect world. From lawmakers to bureaucrats to local leaders, not everyone grasps the concept of open government. Many simply want the public to trust that they are doing their jobs and to go away and leave them be. It is how big matters such as campaign finance or simple matters such as Albert Lea sewer rates can become so convoluted and difficult for the public to grasp — because the information is either limited or filtered or disputed.

March 15

The concept of open government is no fad: This is Sunshine Week, the one week in the year when open-government advocates celebrate the concept that government should operate in the open and that secrecy in government is bad government. ... Earle Duncan Getchell Jr. is Virginia's solicitor general, the lawyer who represents our state when legal disputes go before the high courts. Last month, Getchell was arguing that Virginia's Freedom of Information Act can be invoked only by Virginians and out-of-staters are out of luck.

The innards of state government, courtesy of public record and sunshine laws: Public records in the North Carolina offer a chance to peer into the depths of state government, and see what is and what isn’t working. It’s what I use daily in the work I do here as an investigative reporter at N.C. Policy Watch. Access to public records have proven instrumental in reporting pieces I’ve done about the (now former) state legislator who benefitted substantially from a federally- funded non-profit he ran, a Winston-Salem public charter school that recruited basketball players from around the world and a trip to Florida that an educational reform lobbying group paid for a group of lawmakers to go on last year.

Lawmakers now reporting financial transactions: WASHINGTON — Members of Congress are now posting their stock transactions online on a regular basis to comply with a law enacted 11 months ago to curtail illegal insider trading by lawmakers and their staffs. Among the 13 House members and two senators in New Jersey’s congressional delegation, three have filed “periodic transaction reports” since the law took effect: Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a Democrat, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, a Republican, and Rep. Bill Pascrell, a Democrat.

Sunshine Week: Persistence and public records pay off in tracking double-dipping school chiefs: A recent New Jersey Watchdog investigation revealed 45 “retired” school chiefs had returned to the public payroll, double-dipping millions of dollars a year from pension funds and local education budgets. By using a loophole in state law, the retirees landed lucrative, post-retirement jobs as interim, or temporary, superintendents. One example was a superintendent paid $108,230 a year for a three-day work week – in addition to her state pension checks of $131,964 per annum as a retired superintendent.

Sunshine "Weak:" Wisconsin leaders failing state's open government traditions: “If Wisconsin were not known as the Dairy State it could be known, and rightfully so, as the Sunshine State," the Wisconsin Supreme Court observed in 2010. "All branches of Wisconsin government have, over many years, kept a strong commitment to transparent government.” But just in time for Sunshine Week 2013, GOP leaders in the state are showing how they are failing that proud tradition.

Kent Flanagan: For Sunshine Week, Kent Flanagan looks at history of Tennessee Public Records Act of 1957: For months last year, I kept asking members of the Coalition for Open Government and the Tennessee Press Association if they knew anything about the history of the Tennessee Public Records Act of 1957. I found details about the TPRA and what it covered, but little in the way of context until I visited the Tennessee State Library and Archives and began reading about who developed the legislation and how it was enacted. And, yes, TPA was the driving force behind it.

Local FOIA requests center on hot-button issues: Local governments in DeKalb County received at least 700 FOIA requests from residents from around the country in the six months between Oct. 4, 2012, and March 4. In commemoration of Sunshine Week, a nationwide movement dedicated to open government, the Daily Chronicle filed FOIA requests with local governments to see how people used the common information tool.

A public-records primer: How to make a request: In celebration of Sunshine Week, here’s a primer on making public-records requests in Ohio. It’s your government, your money, your records. Government merely is the custodian of the people’s records -- not the owner. Know the law because an alarming number of government officials and employees don’t. Download a copy of the newly updated “Yellow Book” manual of Ohio Sunshine laws and familiarize yourself with the law. It can be complex.

California transparency and open government movement finds its roots in Brown Act: In the early 1950s, Ralph Brown, a California state assemblyman and lawyer from Modesto, was negotiating a deal between nurses and management at a local hospital. The hospital directors reneged behind closed doors at the last minute, tanking the entire negotiation.

For Sunshine Week, California watchdogs get a free open government guide: As national Sunshine Week begins, Californians interested in using their laws to keep an eye on city hall and other local and state public agencies can get a free 50-page how-to guide from the state's premier open government resource center.

March 14

Mixed forecast for Sunshine Week: The forecast from this year’s National “Sunshine Week,” which annually focuses on issues of freedom of information and transparency in government, is “partly cloudy, with some sun and some storms.”

Sunshine Week -- Watchdog groups check administration’s transparency: The watchdog group Cause of Action released a sort of open-government report card on Wednesday that gave federal agencies an average “C-minus” grade for FOIA compliance last year.

Obama's secrecy fixation causing Sunshine Week implosion: When Barack Obama ran for president in 2008, his pledges of openness and transparency were not ancillary to his campaign but central to it. He repeatedly denounced the Bush administration as "one of the most secretive administrations in our nation's history", saying that "it is no coincidence" that such a secrecy-obsessed presidency "has favored special interests and pursued policies that could not stand up to the sunlight." He vowed: "as president, I'm going to change that." In a widely heralded 2007 speech on transparency, he actually claimed that this value shaped his life purpose.

Data forms the framework, old-fashioned reporting: Some in the Watchdog.org family might take Earl Glynn for granted having been for so long ably, reliably and genially assisted by him. Not me. Rumor has it that over the years, famous novelists, actors, anthropologists and political cartoonists have made pilgrimages to Overland Park, Kan., in efforts to capture the essence of the quintessential data analyst in his natural state, crunching data for Watchdog reporters.

Arming citizens with the power of knowledge: It’s Sunshine Week, that time of year we reflect on the importance of government transparency and how critical it is to our democracy. Much of the conversation during Sunshine Week focuses on the failure of government to be open and transparent. Citizens, Journalists, and Reform groups use this time to highlight how we can expand our current rights and combat government secrecy.

Pa. transparency earns temperate grade in Sunshine Week report: HARRISBURG – If the commonwealth were an elementary school student, we’re not sure if its mother would put this grade on the refrigerator. But in national context, Pennsylvania’s legislative transparency is pretty much on the curve. The Sunlight Foundation’s Open States project gave Pennsylvania a “C” for state legislative transparency in a recent report card. The project ranked all 50 states to grade how “open” state’s legislative data was. Pennsylvania is among 20 states to receive a C, while eight states scored a grade “A,” and six scored an “F.”

FOIA and the most transparent administration in history: Last Wednesday, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul took to the Senate floor for almost 13 hours in a classic Mr. Smith Goes to Washington-type talking filibuster, holding up the confirmation of the new CIA head, John Brennan, over the Obama administration’s inability to answer a few simple questions about the targeted killings of American citizens with drones.

When transparency in government is championed: Continuing through Saturday is the national observance of Sunshine Week. At this time each year, newspapers join in the promotion of transparency in government and ensuring the public’s access to information.

Sunshine Week: This is Sunshine Week. It’s a national observance by the media to point to the importance of openness in government at all levels. This is the 40th anniversary of Missouri’s Sunshine Law. Experience has proven that it is a never-ending battle to uphold Missouri’s Sunshine Law since there is a constant turnover in faces who represent us in government at the local, state and federal levels. It’s an educational more so than a legal battle that must be waged, usually, because of our ever-changing officials. Sunshine Week is one of the attacks in the battle.

It's Sunshine Week: Government is big business, probably the biggest business in the nation. Just as businesses are beholden to stockholders, the government is beholden to its stakeholders – us, the citizens.

Lori Bush: Sunshine Week in Cary: Cary, NC – Sunshine Week (March 10-16, 2013) is a national initiative with the goal to both celebrate and focus on government transparency, open government and improving your access to government information.

Short takes: Sunshine week; Stevenson needs more officers: This week is Sunshine Week, where journalists everywhere discuss the importance of open government and access to information. In the last few months, the Lebanon Express and its sister paper, the Albany Democrat-Herald, have requested numerous documents and bits of information to shed light on why a police chief of six months — and a 17-year veteran of the force — left the department and was offered a severance package.

March 13

White House Sunshine Week Blog: In celebration of civic engagement: We have a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, and the wisdom, energy, and creativity of the American public is the nation’s greatest asset. Sunshine Week seeks to encourage public participation in government, and the U.S. has worked hard to expand opportunities for civic engagement. As one example of this, We the People gives the Obama Administration a way to connect with the public on the issues that matter most to them.

Barbara Petersen: Time to bring Sunshine back to Florida government: Despite our reputation for having the best, most effective open government laws in the United States, Florida received a miserable D+ for access to government information in the State Integrity Investigation, a collaborative project of the Center for Public Integrity, Global Integrity and Public Radio International. Florida received a perfect score for our laws guaranteeing access to government records, but in scoring whether those laws are effectively enforced, we barely managed a passing grade.

Spread accountability: stop stealth lobbying: “Former Senator Joins Firm as Strategic Adviser.” Such headlines appear in business sections and political rags with banal regularity as members of Congress, agency heads and high-ranking congressional staff decide to trade their government contacts for cash. It may be difficult to close the revolving door, but it shouldn't be hard to find out what those who cycle through it are doing or for whom they are doing it.

Don't let broadcasters continue to ignore political ad disclosure: Americans rely on their local TV stations for news. But at some of those stations, an examination by the Sunlight Foundation of newly accessible public records reveals, the management has been helping to cover the tracks of stealth committees that last year financed hundreds of millions of dollars in negative campaign ads.

Simply complying with the law is not transparency: The sun was shining brightly Sunday to usher in Sunshine Week in Georgia. As citizens become more involved in local government, show up at public meetings, comment during the allotted times, circulate petitions, protest actions they believe usurp their rights, file open-records requests and hold elected officials accountable, the more the sun will shine on local government. The darkness of executive sessions and backroom deals casts a cloud over local government and those elected to serve.

Michigan House Democrats push for changes to ethics, election laws during 'Sunshine Week': It's Sunshine Week, an annual push for open government and the public’s right to know stuff. Democrats in the state House tied the introduction of a package of bills to Sunshine Week. The bills include a number of changes to Michigan's laws and constitution regarding ethics, campaign finance, and elections.

Improving Florida legislatures’ transparency: How well does your state legislature give its citizens access to its information? This Sunshine Week, as we reflect on the public’s right to know and the importance of open government, this should be a central question. There are good reasons for this. Legislation springs up – seemingly out of nowhere. Think about the American Legislative Exchange Council’s secret lobbying in favor of “Stand Your Ground” legislation to at least 15 states. These lobbyists were backed by corporate special interests – a fact the public was left in the dark about. Additionally, there was little way to easily track how this law was passed in Florida and also around the country. That’s just one example of the kind of copycat legislation peddled to state legislatures.

Online quiz lets you test your knowledge of Tennessee Sunshine Law: The Tennessee Sunshine Quiz is letting Tennesseans test their knowledge of open government issues with an online survey. The quiz measures knowledge of the state's Public Records Act and Public Meetings Act. This quiz is sponsored by the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government through the support of the Tennessee Press Association, Tennessee Association of Broadcasters and The Associated Press. The quiz is being conducted in advance of Sunshine Week, March 10-16.

First Amendment Center at Newseum to host 15th Annual National Freedom of Information Day, March 15: WASHINGTON — The 15th annual National Freedom of Information Day conference will be held Friday, March 15, at the Knight Conference Center at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. The conference brings together groups from all areas concerned with freedom of information and open records including FOI advocates, government officials, lawyers, librarians, journalists and educators.

MNCOGI to host Freedom of Information Event March 14: Minneapolis, MN (February 19, 2013) — At noon on Thursday, March 14, 2013, the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information (MNCOGI) will present its annual Freedom of Information Day Award at the Minneapolis Central Library. The event coincides with Sunshine Week, a national initiative aimed at highlighting government transparency.

FAF 3rd Annual Sunshine Summit: The First Amendment Foundation will host a Sunshine Summit at St. Petersburg College Saturday, March 16, to discuss reform initiatives in the critical areas of accountability, transparency and access. The summit will be free and open to the public, and representatives from a wide variety of interest groups and non-profits will be invited to participate. Noted author and political commentator Diane Roberts will be the keynote speaker.

Register now for the Washington State Open Government Conference: Washington Coalition for Open Government will hold the Washington State Open Government Conference March 9 at Mercer Island Community Center. Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson will be the featuring speaker. Panel discussions will include: Investigative Reporters Tell Their Tales, Public Officials Tell How to Handle Public Records Requests the Right Way, Eminent Jurists Explain Open Courts Issues, and more.

March 12

EFF takes fight against secret surveillance law to federal court: Section 215 of the Patriot Act has been secretly interpreted by the government in ways, according to Senators briefed on the interpretation, that are misleading and would “stun” the American public. Today, EFF will ask a federal judge in Oakland to order the government to turn over those secret interpretations of the law. As we mentioned yesterday, this week is Sunshine Week – a week dedicated to celebrating the promise of transparent and accountable government. And what better way to celebrate than by fighting against secret surveillance law in federal court?

Sunshine Week offers chance to demand more info from Yellowstone area government bodies: Sunshine Week, which runs from March 10-16, is an annual nationwide celebration of press freedoms meant to foster greater government transparency. So this week, Yellowstone Gate is asking readers to play a larger role in demanding greater transparency and accountability from government bodies across the greater Yellowstone area.

City of Wilmington’s top-20 salaries: The day before Port City Daily filed requests for records of beach town leaders’ recent out-of-town expenses (related story), it tapped the City of Wilmington for information on its top-paid employees. The city is piecing together its budget for the coming new fiscal year and a priority for council members and staffers alike is to afford the city’s workforce a raise in pay. Human Resources Director Jeanne Sexton earlier this month had told Wilmington City Council that wages overall for the city’s workforce were about 9 percent below market.

Dear Michigan officeholder: A letter from campaign finance expert during Sunshine Week: You don’t represent just those who pay good money to be represented. You represent everyone in the jurisdiction that elected you, whether they voted for you, or not; whether they wrote you a check, or not; whether they’ll buy your supper, or not. Our duty as citizens is to evaluate how you’re doing your job, so we know whether we should vote for you, or not. A big part of that evaluation is deciding whose interests you’re serving: All the citizens, or just those who invest in you. And that brings us back to Sunshine Week.

Issa, Cummings introduce bipartisan FOIA reform: In a rare-for-Congress show of bi-partisanship, the top Republican and Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee today introduced new draft legislation designed the strengthen the federal Freedom of Information Act. The FOIA, signed into law in 1966 by President Lyndon Johnson, is the main avenue for citizens who wish to obtain information about federal government activities.

How Congress talks about Sunshine Week: Sunshine Week 2013 is well underway. While yesterday we looked at how well our state government made information available online, today we turn our attention to Capitol Hill. This week is about supporting policies that maintain our right to know and the importance of open government. So how does Congress do just that? Using Sunlight’s Capitol Words tool, let’s take a look at how lawmakers talk about Sunshine Week.

Wisconsin State agency lags on records compliance: What did Mike Huebsch, secretary of the state Department of Administration, know about the circumstances under which a key DOA official abruptly resigned? That’s what Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Jason Stein was wondering when he put in a request, under the state’s open records law, for emails and text messages sent or received by Huebsch regarding deputy secretary Cindy Archer, around the time of her departure.

New manual released as National Sunshine Week begins: COLUMBUS — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has released his office’s 2013 edition of “Ohio Sunshine Laws: An Open Government Resource Manual,” also known as the “Yellow Book.” The release of the updated manual coincides with the start of National Sunshine Week, taking place from March 10-16.

A look at the N.C. Open Meetings Law: The state’s Open Meetings Law requires boards that “exist solely to conduct the people’s business,” do so openly—including hearings, deliberations and actions. Specifically, North Carolina General Statute 143-318.10(b) defines a public body as “any elected or appointed body, committee, commission, board or other group that is composed of two or more members who are authorized to exercise legislative, policy-making, quasi-judicial, administrative or advisory functions.”

Three keys to open government: The Nevada Legislature this session has an opportunity to make some welcome and substantial improvements to open government in this state, and there’s a good chance it will. At the same time, I’m calling on two other important components of open government — the press and the public — to do their part to step up the quality of discourse on legislation and policy.

Sunshine week celebrates Washington's right to open public records: Nearly fifty years ago a middle-school student and her friends set a major free speech case into motion by wearing a black armband to school to protest the Vietnam war. They subsequently protested their suspension from school. And eventually won: In 1969 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Tinker vs. Des Moines School District that neither "students or teachers shed their Constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate." Today, Mary Beth Tinker, now a pediatric nurse, tells her story to students to encourage them to stand up for what they believe and speak out on issues they're passionate about.

Sunshine Week celebrates ‘transparency’ in action: During the observance of National Sunshine Week in Missouri, allow us to highlight the value of openness in government. Government is people. In his Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln characterized government as “of the people, by the people and for the people.” And government funds are your tax dollars.

Sunshine Week events aim to promote open government: This week is Sunshine Week, an annual effort sponsored by journalism advocacy and civil society organizations to promote values of open government, freedom of information, and public participation. A rich variety of events are scheduled around the country, most of which are free and many of which will be webcast. I will be participating in several programs, including these: Open Government in the Second Term, sponsored by the Center for Effective Government and the Electronic Privacy Information Center on March 12.

New Mexico solons claim right to keep official emails private: SANTA FE -- It may be Sunshine Week -- a nationwide initiative focused on the importance of access to public documents and information -- but New Mexico lawmakers are halfway toward adopting a resolution creating an exception for legislative emails.

OU opens Sunshine Week with conference held in Gaylord Hall on freedom of information: Oklahomans gathered to learn about the importance of open government and freedom of information at an annual conference Saturday to kick off Sunshine Week. The public has a right to know what its government is doing, said Joey Senat, media law professor at Oklahoma State University and the master of ceremony for the conference. However, people must understand their rights in order to use them.

Ohio Republicans negotiating over JobsOhio transparency, Happy Sunshine Week: Yesterday kicked off Sunshine Week, a national event aimed at highlighting “the importance of open government and freedom of information.” Ohio’s Republicans celebrated by trying to negotiate a compromise over how much information they will be hiding from the public related to the finances of JobsOhio.

U.S. citing security to censor more public records: WASHINGTON — The U.S. government, led by the Pentagon and CIA, censored files that the public requested last year under the Freedom of Information Act more often than at any time since President Barack Obama took office, according to a new analysis by The Associated Press. The government frequently cited national security as the reason.

March 11

Your right to know vs. colleges: When asked to name an event occurring in March, many would identify St. Patrick's Day. Sports fans might default to March Madness. A small cadre of die-hards with a fanatical dedication to open government will answer Sunshine Week, which starts Sunday. All three answers are correct, even though it might not be immediately clear how they're connected. What does a national initiative coordinated by the American Society of News Editors and Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information, have to do with the most bacchanal of days and a near-month of hoops heaven? The answer starts with Notre Dame.

White House Sunshine Week Blog: In celebration of open government: As President Barack Obama has stated, "Openness will strengthen our democracy, and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government." This week, we celebrate Sunshine Week -- an appropriate time to discuss the importance of open government and freedom of information, and to take stock of how far we have come, and think about what more can be done.

Obama has mixed record on open government: WASHINGTON – It began, as politics often does, with a promise. “My administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in government,” President Obama said shortly after his inauguration four years ago. That was then. How about now? As Obama moves into his second term and the nation begins “Sunshine Week,” the newspaper industry’s annual effort to promote openness in the public sphere, it seems like a good time to assess whether the president has kept that promise.

Why We Think Openness is so Important at UCF: The University of Central Florida employs its own court, for every student and organization enrolled on campus, to hold accountable those who UCF believes frayed from the rules of the school. This court, known as the Office of Student Conduct, however, does not follow the law of the land like courts of the United States do–instead, this court devises its own rules and regulations and operates in secrecy for matters of dealing with conduct.

Sunshine Week celebrates transparency in government: One of the fundamental principles of this country is that government must be open and accountable to the people. And that accountability doesn't mean just State of the Union messages and press conferences on the part of elected officials. It means access by ordinary citizens to the paperwork that keeps track of the everyday activities of government. And that access is granted to citizens — not just members of the media — through the open records laws of the state and the United States, often referred to as Sunshine Laws.

UL students uncover 'horror story' through Sunshine Week survey: How well do local government agencies comply with Louisiana's open government laws? To find out, The Daily Advertiser conducted a survey with help from the students in Dr. Robert Buckman's public affairs reporting class at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

Sunshine Week: Mixed results: In an era when time-pressed technophiles have groceries delivered to their doors and buy tickets en route to the cinema with ubiquitous sidekick gadgets, the meaning of convenience is rewritten daily. For democracy’s sake, however, government bodies can no longer conflate a convenience with a right. There should be no confusion about public access to information.

Florida First Amendment Foundation celebrates Sunshine Week: Two events highlight the First Amendment Foundation's 2013 observance of Sunshine Week, the national initiative to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. Sunshine Week 2013 runs from March 10-16.

Two Oklahoma newspapers, legislator garner FOI honors during Sunshine Week: Two Oklahoma newspapers and a state lawmaker were honored Saturday during FOI Oklahoma's Sunshine Week activities at the University of Oklahoma. The Enid News & Eagle was awarded the Marian Opala First Amendment Award and the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise was given the Ben Blackstock Award.

Sunshine Week highlights the importance of open records and government transparency: In a place known for its 300-plus days of sunny weather every year, a proclamation of “Sunshine Week” may not be met with the ovation it deserves. But this week — dedicated to open records and government transparency — is a perfect time to remember the rights we have as citizens and taxpayers when it comes to government accountability. In honor of Sunshine Week, we’d like to recognize our local legislators who are working to ensure people have easy access to documents their tax dollars paid for.

Sunshine Week isn't just for the media: Welcome to Sunshine Week — a time created to draw public attention to the issue of freedom of information. The first Sunshine Sunday was declared in Florida in 2002, when newspapers across that state agreed to publish editorials and articles on government openness on the same day. It was the Sunday before James Madison’s birthday. Although newspapers and other forms of media use the state’s open meetings and public records laws regularly to keep government accountable, it’s important to note those laws aren't in place for the media. Those laws exist for everyone’s use.

Ohio government turning out the lights on information: As the national Sunshine Week celebration of transparency begins today, Ohioans have above-average rights to public records and open meetings, according to national ratings, but access isn’t what it used to be. Dennis Hetzel, executive director of the Ohio Newspaper Association and president of the Ohio Coalition for Open Government, works to beat back restrictions on public records. But even he believes government officials mean no harm.

Information kept by our government should be presumed open to public: It’s time for the Ohio General Assembly to kill the stealth exemption. The stealth exemption is a nickname for a series of misguided rulings by the Ohio Supreme Court in interpreting Ohio’s open-records law, our most potent catalyst for accountable government. The court’s rulings have made Ohio the only state where citizens must prove that information kept by public agencies is supposed to be open.

Forecast in Ohio cloudy: Today marks the beginning of Sunshine Week, a national initiative to promote government transparency and citizen access to public records and meetings. Unfortunately, the forecast for openness in Ohio is growing cloudier.

Make 'Sunshine Week' memorable for open government: A litany of bills aimed at amending the state’s Public Records Act — in both good and bad ways — again surfaced in Olympia this legislative session. While it’s encouraging to see some legislators fight for the public’s right to know and transparent government, a handful of others remind us that protecting access to government is an ongoing battle.

Sunshine Week audit shows public record delays common: The Associated Press and newspapers throughout the state, including The Daytona Beach News-Journal, visited every county's clerk of court office in recent weeks to see whether each is complying with the law and how much of a delay it is causing in the release of information.

All about Sunshine Week: Transparency laws are meant to make government officials’ actions and decisions open to the public to hold leaders accountable and ensure that citizens can play an active role in the democratic process.

Sunshine Week is about your right to know: Washington matters, of course it does. Austin makes a difference, obviously. Our voices rise when they carry comments about the president or Congress or the governor or the Legislature.

Sunshine Week reminds us why people should have access to information: In an ideal world, there wouldn’t be a need for “Sunshine Week,” which celebrates the right of the people to watch their government in action. That includes free access to meetings and documents that discuss the public’s business. An accessible government is a keystone of our democracy.

For Sunshine Week, just a little light: Sunday marks the start of Sunshine Week, the national initiative that’s meant to call attention to the importance of open government and freedom of information. Typically, this is a time when I blather on about how government works best when it functions in the sunshine and how Oregon’s laws on public records and open meetings, once among the best in the nation, have been whittled down over the years until they’re shadows of their former selves.

Sunshine Week: Those who rhapsodize about defending the freedoms guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution (even if all they’ve read is the last half of the Second Amendment) have a good point. Our rights don’t just sit there, inviolate, waiting to be enjoyed at random. They need to be defended around the clock from enemies foreign and domestic.

Ruth Johnson offers Sunshine Week push for more election transparency in Michigan: LANSING — Michigan's top elections official wants to require political campaigns to report financial contributions within 48 hours after they receive them, one of several proposals aimed at giving voters nearly real-time information about the money behind the candidates.

Sunshine Week reminds public officials of their obligation to openness: The Texas Open Meetings Act is designed to let members of the public see what their elected officials are up to. But sometimes, you watch them in action and still wonder what they're up to.

Sunshine Week celebrates the public's right to know: The idea for Sunshine Week started — appropriately enough — in Florida in 2002 when that state’s newspapers shed light on proposals by some legislators to create many new exemptions to the public records laws. Following three Sunshine Sundays in which newspapers publicized these efforts, Florida legislators voted down about 300 proposals that would have restricted the right to know.

Pre-Sunshine-Week News

Shadows lengthen on access to public records: Every year, Sunshine Week underscores the importance of open government across the nation. It is a perfect moment to share concerns in Ohio about ever-growing exceptions to an open records law that should ensure you have access to information about what your government officials do and how well they do it.

Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council bestows annual open government awards: As part of national Sunshine Week, March 10-16, the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council acknowledges advocacy groups on opposite sides of the political spectrum, as well as media outlets large and small, in its seventh annual round of awards highlighting open government in Wisconsin. Meanwhile, the Milwaukee Police Department earned the Council’s No Friend of Openness Award.

Sunshine Week highlights need for openness: Every year, the American public’s right to know is marked with Sunshine Week. This year’s observance begins Sunday and runs through March 16. Newspapers, which campaign incessantly for open government and freedom of information, will take the opportunity next week to remind readers and public officials of the laws that demand transparency in government.

Let the sun shine on public oversight: Sunshine Week is March 10-16, 2013. Please join me in celebrating Wisconsin’s vibrant “sunshine laws,” the Public Records Law and the Open Meetings Law. These laws — and their diligent observance by records custodians and meetings organizers — provide broad access to information about how our state and local governments operate.

MNCOGI presents Finnegan FOI Award to Michele Timmons: (March 7, 2013) — The Minnesota Coalition on Government Information presents this year's John R. Finnegan Freedom of Information Award to Ms. Michele Timmons at noon next Thursday, March 14. Ms. Timmons is the Minnesota Revisor of Statutes.

Shell games and FOIA, IL: Thank goodness for the government. That was the way that Silly Pretend Journalists, aka the Society of Professional Journalists, saw things eight years ago when they bestowed attorney general Lisa Madigan with the coveted Sunshine Award, akin to an Oscar from a group of navel gazers that purports to be a watchdog for the public interest.

Improving Transparency in Michigan: Sunshine Week, a national initiative to encourage discussion on the importance of open government and freedom of information, is celebrated annually in mid-March to coincide with James Madison’s March 16 birthday. Sunshine Week is also the official launch of the Michigan Coalition for Open Government (MiCOG). Michigan was one of just two states (the other is Alaska) without an open government group.

In Oshkosh, Wisc., transparency is key: In Oshkosh, Wisc., transparency policies are a priority. In the city, these policies make agencies run more efficiently, and provide the public with more services and information. And on March 10, the city will showcase its commitment to transparency during Sunshine Week – an event that encourages governments from across the nation to discuss how transparency can provide value to the public.

Help Wausau Daily Herald shine a light on government for Sunshine Week: Sunday will mark the beginning of Sunshine Week, the week we set aside to promote the importance of open government and public access to government’s workings. Daily Herald Media and Gannett Wisconsin Media recently have uncovered some major stories as a direct result of open records requests. We’re proud of the work we do to inform people about the workings of government.

New Mexico State University Library hosts Sunshine Week reception: LAS CRUCES - The New Mexico State University Library will host its first-ever Sunshine Week reception from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 13, on the third floor of Zuhl Library. The free public event is in conjunction with National Sunshine Week, March 10-16.

Sunshine Day event to feature UNC panel: A panel discussion on the UNC athletic and academic scandals and an address from a nationally known open-government expert will headline an event Monday to celebrate the value of transparent government. The N.C. Open Government Coalition and N.C. State Student Media will sponsor the annual Sunshine Day event, scheduled for 12 p.m.-4 p.m. Monday at the McKimmon Center at N.C. State University. It’s part of Sunshine Week, a campaign for awareness about citizens’ right of access to government meetings and records.

Last day to register for Oklahoma Sunshine Conference conference: Wednesday is the last day to register online to attend this year’s annual Oklahoma Sunshine Conference to discuss the importance of open information. This year’s conference is titled “Fighting for an Open Government.” The conference will take place in the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.

2013 D.C. Open Government Summit March 13: Celebrating Sunshine Week 2013, the D.C. Open Government Coalition will present its second annual “D.C. Open Government Summit” Wednesday, March 13. The D.C. OGC will share results of its recent open meetings audit, surveying compliance across dozens of D.C. boards and commissions.

What does transparency mean to you?: Transparency, as it pertains to government, is a term often mentioned but paid little attention to by the general public. As a technical term, it means "allowing light to pass through so that objects behind can be distinctly seen." It is the opposite of opaque. But in this context, it has a more general meaning of "easy to perceive or detect." As citizens, we want every action of our government to fall under this description. To go one step further, we demand it.

Senate Judiciary Committee to hold annual Sunshine Week hearing: WASHINGTON – Senator Patrick Leahy announced Tuesday that the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a Freedom of Information Act oversight hearing next month entitled, “We the People: Fulfilling the Promise of Open Government Five Years After The OPEN Government Act.”

Register for OpenTheGovernment.org’s Sunshine Week Event March 15: Sunshine Week 2013 will take place March 10th to 15th, throughout Washington, DC, and across the United States. On the morning of Friday, March 15th, OpenTheGovernment.org and the First Amendment Center will host a Sunshine Week celebration of National Freedom of Information Day at the Newseum in Washington, DC.

Promoting Sunshine Week 2013, March 10-16: Organizations promoting Sunshine Week, including the Inland Press Association, are this year emphasizing the theme that open government is a vital interest of every American, not just the media.