Indiana Supreme Court declines to open lawmakers’ emails to public

The Indiana Supreme Court Tuesday ruled it will not force Indiana lawmakers to release their emails under the state’s public records law.

The Court says to do so would violate the state constitution’s separation of powers. Citizen advocacy groups, including the Citizens Action Coalition, filed a lawsuit to gain access to emails between a House Republican legislator and utility companies.

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Indiana taxpayers footing bill for public records lawsuit

Hoosier taxpayers have paid $160,000 in legal fees to shield Indiana House and Senate communications from public view in just eight months.

The final tab will be higher because the most recent tally from the Indiana Auditor’s Office doesn’t include a bill covering the March 17 oral argument before the Indiana Supreme Court.

“That’s a lot of money,” said Kerwin Olson, executive director of the Citizens Action Coalition. “It would have been a lot cheaper just to honor the public records law.”

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10 ways Gov. Scott Walker, Wisconsin GOP have moved to diminish accountability

Earlier this month, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed an executive order pledging to “go above and beyond the requirements of the Public Records Law and promote easier, fairer and broader access to public records.”

That order creates a system for citizens to monitor the performance of state agencies. He debuted his Open Book website in 2014, which has gotten favorable reviews for user friendliness and how it catalogs state spending, though it does not offer specifics on what services or goods were purchased.

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Massachusetts committee will debate public records law changes in public

Adopting a spirit perhaps befitting the first major overhaul of a public records law, six lawmakers reconciling House and Senate versions of the legislation plan to keep their meetings accessible to the public as they solicit commentary from interested parties.

The conference committee met for the first time Wednesday afternoon in a backroom off the House chamber where Rep. Peter Kocot invited advocates to share their thoughts on the differing bills (H 3858/S 2120).

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Editorial: Massachusetts Senate should toughen public records law

The Massachusetts Senate plans to debate legislation that ideally should be aimed at giving the state’s public records law – one of the weakest in the nation – a much-needed backbone transplant.

Last fall, the Massachusetts House approved its version of the bill, but changes rendered the final result anemic. The Senate, which recorded 64 amendments to its own bill this week, now has a chance to make things right.

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Experts: New bills in Florida would harm public-records law

Bills filed this week would gut the public's right of access to the government by making it harder for citizens to take records disputes to court, First Amendment experts say.

Two Republican lawmakers, Sen. Rene Garcia of Hialeah and Rep. Greg Steube of Sarasota, are sponsoring the legislation (SB 1220 and HB 1021), which has the backing of the powerful Florida League of Cities.  Continue…

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Wisconsin board’s records action appears to have violated open meetings law

An obscure board overseeing state public records gave so little notice of a move to sharply limit electronic records that it appears to have violated the state's open meetings law, attorneys and open records advocates say.

The changes have already had an impact — they were used by Gov. Scott Walker's administration as a reason not to release records just one day after the action was quietly taken in August by the Public Records Board, which oversees the preservation and handling of government records.

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Commentary: Arlington lacking in government transparency

The Arlington Advocate is to be commended for its Nov. 15 editorial advocating for reform of the state’s Public Records Law. But it completely missed the mark in suggesting that Arlington could serve as a strong example of transparency to state agencies.

Arlington officials do an excellent job of managing the local media, no doubt supplying all the information they wish to make public. But when it comes to responding to records requests from Arlington citizens, their performance is decidedly mixed.

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Virginia FOIA council looks to shore up public-records laws

Virginia’s public-records panel will explore changes to state law to address the ramifications from a recent state Supreme Court ruling that advocates have warned could have sweeping effects on government transparency.

At a meeting Wednesday, the co-chairman of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act Advisory Council said the body will look into concerns raised by Sen.-elect Scott A. Surovell, D-Fairfax, who took the Department of Corrections to court last year after being denied information about the state’s procedures for carrying out the death penalty.

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