Audit: How open record laws are applied in state legislatures

Lawmakers in every state have adopted laws requiring most government meetings and records to be open to the public. But in some states, lawmakers have exempted themselves from complying.

The Associated Press sent open-records request to the top lawmakers in all 50 states and most governors, seeking copies of their daily schedules and emails from the government accounts for the week of Feb. 1-7.


Connecticut watchdog agencies fear results of deep cuts

The state’s watchdog agencies, whose budgets constitute a miniscule amount of the $19.8 billion state budget next year, say more cuts will leave them unable to function.

The executive directors of the Freedom of Information Commission, the State Election Enforcement Commission and the Office of State Ethics told the New Haven Register’s editorial board Thursday that their collective mission to provide transparency and keep government honest is being threatened.


Editorial: Decision to release booking photos in Montana was a victory for freedom of information

Despite Montana’s strong public information laws, news organizations in many Montana counties, including Missoula and Butte, have long fought for the public’s right to access the photographs taken of accused criminals when they are booked into jail.

Thanks to a recent district court ruling, that fight has been largely settled. Not surprisingly, public access triumphed.


FOI Oklahoma seeks nominations for 2015 First Amendment, FOI awards

Freedom of Information Oklahoma is accepting nominations for its annual awards that will recognize individuals and organizations that promoted the First Amendment and the free flow of information to the public in 2015.

Those who opposed dissemination of public information are recognized with the organization’s Black Hole Award. The Ben Blackstock Award is presented to a non-governmental person or organization that has shown a commitment to freedom of information.


New Mexico AG promises more FOI enforcement

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas has created an Open Government Division within his office to beef up enforcement of New Mexico’s freedom-of-information laws, and though the process has had a few hiccups, transparency advocates are optimistic that the office will be more aggressive.

The New Mexico Foundation for Open Government has long complained that the office, through several administrations, has never prioritized enforcement of the state’s laws guaranteeing access to public records and meetings.


University of Iowa failed to open letter from Freedom of Information Council

University of Iowa officials say they weren't intentionally ignoring a letter from the Iowa Freedom of Information Council.

It's just that no one had gotten around to opening the letter until last weekend.

In a letter dated Dec. 30 and sent to the new university president, FOI Council Executive Director Randy Evans raised concerns about UI's refusal to release documents related to work done for the university by a company owned by former Iowa Republican Party Chairman Matt Strawn.


Chattanooga plans effort to get rid of decades of stored records

In the dim light of a smartphone, the lettering on the side of the 10-odd white storage boxes is faintly legible: "Confidential Medical Information. Medical Personnel Only." A few feet away, in this darkened corner of a storage warehouse on East Main Street, another box is labeled "Unpaid Parking Tickets." There are long cabinets with flat drawers — the label on one reads "TVA Project." Two mattresses sprawl incongruously nearby.


Massachusetts public records bill gets mixed reviews

Under a new bill, Massachusetts would join 47 other states that allow people to recoup legal fees after successfully suing for access to public records.

The legislature’s first move in more than 40 years to update the Massachusetts public records law is getting mixed reviews from some government transparency advocates.


Media companies begin appeal of N.J. public records ruling

New Jersey's largest newspapers and some of the biggest U.S. media companies are challenging a 2013 ruling by a Bergen County judge that they say gives government agencies in New Jersey unprecedented power to deny requests for public records.

Experts call it one of the most consequential legal battles involving privacy rights and government transparency New Jersey has seen in years. A state appeals court heard oral arguments for nearly two hours Tuesday.