FOIA reform passes! Now what’s actually in it?

When we kicked off Sunshine Week, we noted that FOIA reform — already passed by the House — was being considered by the Senate.

Now, with some important modifications, it has passed the Senate, so let's take a look at what will change for requesters.

The first thing to know is that the FOIA reform that passed the House and Senate is actually two different bills, S.337 and H.R.653. Continue…


Editorial: Three FOI successes to celebrate during Sunshine Week

It’s easy during Sunshine Week, the national effort to promote awareness of open-government issues, to feel exasperated by the many recent and ongoing attempts to shield public information from public view.

State lawmakers tried to kill a program that helps citizens resolve FOI disputes. States are keeping secret their execution protocols. A police chief prohibited a citizen from photographing public records as he reviewed them. The list is long, and I even wrote in January that government secrecy was the most serious threat last year to a free press in the US.


Editorial: Sunshine laws help answer big questions

Is Wisconsin tough on doctors who make big mistakes, costing people their lives? No.

Is soil at the former Royster-Clark plant on Madison’s East Side still contaminated? Yes.

Was a Waupun prison guard suspended for making a lynching joke about President Barack Obama? Yes. '

Was a UW-Madison football player really acting in self-defense — as the athletic department contended — during a fight last fall at his off-campus residence? No. (He actually threw the first punch.)


First Amendment Foundation, Poynter Institute launch the ‘Sunshine Certificate’

To commemorate Sunshine Week and the National Freedom of Information Day, the First Amendment Foundation and The Poynter Institute have launched a new online “Sunshine Certificate” to help educate elected officials, attorneys, journalists and citizens on open government laws.

The online “Sunshine Certificate” programs combine the best of the First Amendment Foundation’s training with the flexibility of online learning. Florida public officials, attorneys, journalists and citizens are able to choose the training that meets their needs.


Editorial: Let the sun shine on public meetings and records

In various locales around Missouri, government officials have engaged in wanton violations of the state’s Sunshine Law either through carelessness or willful defiance. Whatever the excuse, there is no excuse.

The public has a right to know how decisions are made and taxpayer dollars are spent. Keeping tabs on officials becomes much harder when they cloak their activities in secrecy. The denial of public access serves as an open invitation for corrupt practices and mischief.


Op-ed: Encouraging transparency in government in 2016

Transparency in government is essential to upholding American democracy. When citizens have access to behind-the-scenes information about local and federal administrations, politicians are held accountable. The public is educated and engaged. And our nation is strengthened.

It is popular to pledge honest and open leadership while on the campaign trail, but America does not have the best track record in keeping these promises. In fact, Pew research finds that just five percent of Americans believe the government is doing a good job of sharing key information.


U.S. Senate passes FOIA reform bill

The Senate on Tuesday unanimously passed a bill to expand the public's access to government records, after a year of delay.

The Senate's move means both chambers have now passed similar proposals to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Differences will still need to be resolved before the measure makes it to President Obama's desk — potentially forcing the administration's hand on a bill it has previously lobbied against.