This Sunshine Week, how would you #FixFOIABy50?

For those using freedom of information laws in the United States, the race for records is almost always marathon: At the federal level, over the course of 9,166 requests, we've found an average wait time of 140 days — even though the law states records should be returned in just 20.

Most states are better, but not near where they should be: Massachusetts has an average response time of 80 days and California, you'll wait 49 days, even though their respective laws require responses within 10 days.

More

NEFAC to host New Hampshire event, publish FOI reports from all New England states

New England First Amendment Coalition will be joining open government advocates for the next seven days to celebrate the 11th annual Sunshine Week. 

This national campaign is an initiative to promote a dialogue about the importance of transparency and freedom of information. Participants include news media, civic groups, libraries, non-profits, schools and others interested in the public’s right to know.

More

As Sunshine Week dawns, more need than ever for transparency

Journalists and First Amendment advocates faced discouraging news last week when VICE News reporter Jason Leopold pulled back the curtain on secret attempts to hamstring open records laws in the United States. 

Leopold, who's been hailed by The New York Times and others for his skill at prying secrets from the government, disclosed that the Obama administration worked behind the scenes to torpedo a bill that would have sped and streamlined public records requests made under the Freedom of Information Act.

More

Open government groups ask Senate to pass FOIA reforms during Sunshine Week

More than 40 organizations and individuals committed to government openness and accountability sent a letter thanking Senators Grassley, Leahy and Cornyn for their authorship of the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 (S.337), and urging the earliest possible passage of the bill.

The FOIA Improvement Act has received overwhelming support on both sides of the aisle and from the openness community, and includes necessary measures to enable public oversight that is critical to ensuring government accountability.

More

Reporters eye access to text messages during Sunshine Week

When Florida’s public records law was approved 40 some years ago, people were still using typewriters and rotary dial telephones.

If you wanted a public record, you got a piece of paper or maybe lots of pieces of paper. Technology has changed all of that and has presented a challenge for members of the public who want to know what their government officials are up to and local governments that want to avoid violating the law.

More

Public’s right to know being eroded, experts warn

What was billed as a celebratory kickoff sounded more like the somber briefing of an embattled and encircled force listing off perils of its situation. Such were the warnings given during the League of Women Voters and The News-Press Media Group’s Open Government and You public forum about the “erosion” of the public’s right to information. 

More

For South Carolina’s open-government law, a time of triumphs and setbacks

Year after year, the state’s open-records law cracks a door to the activities of government that might otherwise stay secret. Information gleaned with its help has a power to change lives for the better and make governments more accountable.

But some officials continue to ignore the S.C. Freedom of Information Act or find ways around it.

When it has worked, the law has helped expose faults in the system for investigating police shootings and lifted a veil hiding shoddy care of foster children.

More

Cloudy conditions for Sunshine Week: A pile of paper instead of a spreadsheet

For an ongoing series on race in Colorado, Rocky Mountain PBS investigative reporter Katie Wilcox requested five years of records from six cities on when police stop people for suspicious behavior and other reasons.

Grand Junction provided information from its field interviews at no charge. Pueblo billed Wilcox $20, Colorado Springs asked for $88 and Fort Collins quoted her $60. Denver doesn’t keep the data by race.

More

D.C. Mayor, CTO to speak at open government summit

Mayor Muriel E. Bowser and Archana Vemulapalli, D.C.'s chief technology officer, will discuss government transparency and open data policy at the fifth annual Sunshine Week program co-hosted by the D.C. Open Government Coalition at the National Press Club March 15 from 6:30 to 9 p.m.

The event is open and free to all, but space is limited and only a few seats are still available. A reception will follow the program. 

More

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.

More