Small changes, homestretch approach in Virginia’s FOIA review

Virginia's Freedom of Information Advisory Council will formally recommend changes to the state's open records and meetings laws as soon as next month.

Among the changes waiting for an up-or-down vote from the council are tweaks that could potentially narrow one of the law's broadest exemptions, which currently lets state and local officials keep a wide and ill-defined swath of documents from public view.


Virginia Attorney General OKs governor’s proposal to acquire lethal injection drugs in secret

Virginia would not run afoul of federal law or violate death row inmates’ constitutional rights by passing a law allowing the state to obtain lethal injection drugs from secret sources, according to an opinion released late Tuesday by Attorney General Mark R. Herring.

In a 13-page document, Herring responded to a series of Republican and Democratic lawmakers’ questions about a pending death penalty bill that will be a major focus when the General Assembly reconvenes today to take up Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s vetoes and amendments.


Unrecorded votes dominate bill deaths in Virginia House

Nearly 95 percent of bills defeated in the Virginia House of Delegates this session went down without a recorded vote, according to a new analysis from the coalition Transparency Virginia.

That means the bills were killed for the year – through one of several procedural motions – without clerks taking note of who voted one way or another.


Virginia governor pushes for secrecy of execution drugs

Gov. Terry McAuliffe said Monday that he has proposed keeping secret the identities of pharmacies that supply lethal-injection drugs for executions, instead of changing the law to force inmates to die in the electric chair if there are no available drugs.

McAuliffe stripped the contentious electric-chair provision from a bill and vowed to veto the measure if lawmakers reintroduce it. He warned that unless Virginia shields lethal-injection-drug manufacturers from public scrutiny, capital punishment in the state will come to a halt.


Virginia Gov. McAuliffe signs bill to reverse anti-FOIA ruling by state Supreme Court

After initially expressing concerns about a bill to ensure nonexempt public records are released, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has signed it.

Ginger Stanley, executive director of the Virginia Press Association, praised the governor’s decision after open-government advocates and lawmakers from both parties last month criticized his resistance.


Virginia Governor backs off push for sweeping changes to FOIA bill

Facing substantial opposition from legislative leaders in both parties, Gov. Terry McAuliffe is backing off sweeping changes he recommended to a Freedom of Information Act bill designed to prevent a public record from being denied when only a portion of the record needs to be redacted.

Sponsored by Sen. Scott A. Surovell, D-Fairfax, Senate Bill 494 was proposed to clarify FOIA following a Virginia Supreme Court ruling on a case Surovell brought last year that sought details on how Virginia carries out executions.


Virginia House panel kills police secrecy bill

A Virginia bill that would have allowed the government to shield the names of police officers from the public was killed by a legislative committee Thursday after a fierce debate that pitted open records advocates against law enforcement groups.

The measure was introduced in response to a court ruling last year that directed the state to turn over the names and employment dates of thousands of law enforcement officials to The Virginian-Pilot, which is trying to determine whether officers who get fired are landing jobs at another agency.


CJR: Here’s the backstory to a bill allowing Virginia police to keep officers’ names secret

If you follow transparency and open-records news, you might have heard about what’s going on in Virginia, where the state Senate last week approved a bill to make the names and training files of law-enforcement officials “excluded from mandatory disclosure” under the state Freedom of Information Act.


Virginia Senate passes bill to keep names of police, deputies a secret

The Virginia Senate voted 25-15 on Monday to keep the names of all police officers and deputy sheriffs a secret.

SB552 by Sen. John Cosgrove, R-Chesapeake, applies to any local or state officer, including officers from agencies such as the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control and the Virginia Marine Police.

Cosgrove said during an earlier subcommittee hearing that he filed the bill in response to a November court ruling allowing The Virginian-Pilot access to names, agencies and employment dates for current Virginia police officers.