As he tries to save lives of those in recovery, Virginia advocate is denied the state data he needs

By Lila GreenbergStudent research assistantBrechner Center for Freedom of Information at the University of Florida  Michael McDermott is locked in a legal battle with the state of Virginia in his quest to publish overdose response incidents and shed light on the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of state programs battling drug addiction.  His efforts, he says, will…

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In a blow to transparency, Virginia conceals names of government workers using credit cards

On a recommendation from its vendor, Virginia has removed government employee names from credit card expenses, a move that contradicts the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, experts say. Bank of America advised state leaders to withhold the names of people with state-issued credit cards. Bank of America said the advice is intended to reduce the…

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If records cannot always be free, at least make fees follow these 3 rules, Virginia coalition leader says

A subcommittee of Virginia’s FOIA Council is studying fees charged for public records. “In a perfect world, there would be no charges for FOIA requests in Virginia,” writes Megan Rhyne, executive director of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government. “There’s a philosophical issue that underpins some states’ open records law that says, ‘taxpayers have already…

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New Virginia law brings public meetings into digital age

 RICHMOND – Bringing government further into the digital age, the General Assembly has given final approval to two bills aimed at modernizing how members of city councils, school boards and other public bodies attend and hold meetings using electronic technologies. HB 906 and HB 908 make it easier for public officials and citizens to attend…

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Virginia Senate approves bill to shield student contact information

RICHMOND — After a political group obtained college students’ contact information and used it to send mass text messages for last year’s election, the Virginia Senate on Monday overwhelmingly approved a bill to protect student privacy. House Bill 1 from Del. Tony Wilt, R-Rockingham, would stop college student directory information from being released under the…

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Bill Would Exempt Trade Secrets From FOIA

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Open government and environmental advocates are once again battling bills they say that would limit public-information access by creating a Freedom of Information Act exclusion for trade secrets. HB 904 by Del. Roxann Robinson, R-Chesterfield, would create general exclusions from FOIA for trade secrets submitted to a public body. It passed…

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New delegates push for more transparency, stronger FOIA laws in Virginia

Getting public records can be challenging in Virginia, where the state attorney general’s office once charged nearly $15,000 for the release of emails related to then-Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s (R) ties to a well-connected businessman. But 2018 may be a year for greater transparency, with two journalists  entering the House of Delegates determined to revise…

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Virginia Supreme Court hears argument in newspaper’s access to records case

The Daily Press took its battle with the Office of the Executive Secretary of the Virginia Supreme Court over access to a statewide court records database to the justices of the state Supreme Court on Friday.

The newspaper is seeking the data under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act to determine whether race plays a part in plea bargains in the state’s circuit courts. The position of the OES is that each of the state’s clerks — not the OES — is the custodian of the records.

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Va.: New Laws Would Help and Hurt Access to Information

For advocates of government transparency, the General Assembly's 2017 session was a mixed bag, resulting in bills that both increased and decreased information available under the Freedom of Information Act.

According to Megan Rhyne, executive director of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government, the session saw fewer FOIA-related bills than in past years. Even so, the group stayed busy opposing legislation that Rhyne said would keep important information from the public.

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Va.: Lawmakers vote for four ways to increase government secrecy

bill that would make deliberately ignoring citizens' Freedom of Information Act requests a firing offense died in a state Senate committee Monday.

The Senate General Laws committee also voted to shield records related to bingo and other charitable gambling supplies, as well as making confidential engineering and construction plans for single-family houses filed with local building officials to ensure compliance with state building codes.

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