March 16, 2020
For Immediate Release
Contact: Daniel Bevarly
Executive Director, NFOIC
New service tracks state transparency-related bills
The National Freedom of Information Coalition is pleased to unveil a new bill tracking tool that will allow the public to more easily access information about transparency-related bills in their state.
NFOIC has created 51 dashboards on its website for each state and the District of Columbia. The dashboards are powered by Quorum, a Washington D.C.-based software company, that scrapes every legislative website in real time.
More than three-fourths of NFOIC’s state coalition members say that tracking their legislative sessions for bills that impact their state’s open government laws is a critical need — and a challenging task. “Since most state legislatures do not prominently identify introduced transparency-related bills, many coalitions must rely on labor-intensive methods to single out and track them,“ said Daniel Bevarly, NFOIC’s executive director. NFOIC sought a technology solution to automate and better identify and track these bills.
To help sort through tens of thousands of bills and to help find the most relevant results, the dashboards only show bills that contain transparency-related terminology. NFOIC worked with its state coalitions across the U.S. to find terms that were most used or relevant to each state’s open records and meetings laws.
The announcement comes on the heels of NFOIC’s latest research published last month, “Legislating Open Government: The Prevalence of Transparency-Related Language in 2019 State Legislative Bills.” The report was a culmination of a months-long pilot project analyzing all bills introduced in 2019 sessions across the U.S. using Quorum software. This report explains NFOIC’s methodology and discusses the findings along with the challenges and limitations surrounding the use of keyword searches.
Transparency issues arise in all kinds of bills — everything from how public data is collected, organized, managed and disseminated by government, to the balance between personal privacy and the public’s right to know, and how government interacts with the private sector.
The pilot project is an extension of NFOIC’s 2020 Vision strategy for improving government transparency at the state and local levels at a time when access to public records and institutions is becoming more challenging for society.
If you know academics, journalists, government agencies or stakeholder groups who may be interested in online public records portal administration, please share this research with them. We’re here to assist in the effort for improved records administration in cities and states across the U.S and look forward to hearing your feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The National Freedom of Information Coalition is a national nonprofit, nonpartisan organization of state and regional affiliates representing more than 37 states and the District of Columbia. Through our programs, services and national member network, NFOIC promotes press freedom, legislative and administrative reforms, dispute resolution, and litigation (when needed) to ensure open, transparent and accessible state and local governments and public institutions.
For more, visit www.nfoic.org.