Volume 1, Issue 7

FOI InSight, an open government newsletter
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Sunshine Week 2013

Image of Sunshine Week -- Your Right to KnowSunshine Week is a national initiative to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. The latest Sunshine Week events include: First Amendment Center at Newseum to host 15th Annual National Freedom of Information Day, an online quiz that test your knowledge of Tennessee Sunshine Law, and more.

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Knight News Challenge

How can we make the places we live more awesome through data and technology? How can we make public information more relevant and useful? This is the Knight News Challenge: Open Gov. The latest Knight News Challenge is an opportunity to accelerate promising ideas and trends on open government. Knight would welcome a broad range of open government innovative proposals from our member groups.

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State Open Government Hall of Fame

Nominations for inclusion into the State Open Government Hall of Fame are now being accepted. Heroes of the 50 States: The State Open Government Hall of Fame is a joint venture by the Society of Professional Journalists and the National Freedom of Information Coalition. It was developed by leaders in both organizations as a way to recognize long-term contributions of individuals to open government in their respective states.

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The National Freedom of Information Coalition and the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana bring you the 2013 FOI Summit on May 17 -18 in New Orleans, Louisiana. This is your best opportunity to get a clear view of the state of disclosure and access laws, state by state.

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Supreme Court hears case on public records access and out-of-state-bias

The Supreme Court's justices suggested on February 20 that state laws limiting access to government records to their own state residents might be pointless, but the justices seemed not to be persuaded that the laws are also unconstitutional. The case, McBurney v. Young, deals with the issue of whether a state may prevent citizens of other states from having the same right of access to public records that the state affords its own citizens.

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 Members in the News 

WCOG to hold Open Government Conference

Washington Coalition for Open Government will hold the Washington State Open Government Conference March 9 at Mercer Island Community Center. Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson will be the featuring speaker. Panel discussions will include: Investigative Reporters Tell Their Tales, Public Officials Tell How to Handle Public Records Requests the Right Way, Eminent Jurists Explain Open Courts Issues, and more.

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MNCOGI to host Freedom of Information Event March 14

On Thursday, March 14, Minnesota Coalition on Government Information will hold the annual Freedom of Information Day celebration at Minneapolis Central Library. An important component of the event is honoring the recipient of the annual John A. Finnegan Freedom of Information Award.

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FAF to hold the 3rd Annual Sunshine Summit

The First Amendment Foundation will host a Sunshine Summit at St. Petersburg College Saturday, March 16, to discuss reform initiatives in the critical areas of accountability, transparency and access. The summit will be free and open to the public, and representatives from a wide variety of interest groups and non-profits will be invited to participate. Noted author and political commentator Diane Roberts will be the keynote speaker.

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Nominations for SPJ Honors

The Society of Professional Journalists annually recognizes exceptional contributions to the media industry through the SPJ Honors. Help SPJ recognize the outstanding members of the journalism community.

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Missouri House of Representatives Resolution No. 459 of 2013

Timothy W. Jones, Speaker of the Missouri House of Representatives, presented this resolution to the Missouri Press Board on Feb. 20 in Jefferson City. The Resolution No. 459 was adopted on Feb. 19.

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 Analysis & Commentary 

4 areas need improvement, First Amendment chief says

Barbara Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation, pointed out four areas needing improvement in Florida’s Sunshine Laws. She is pushing to have changes made in the coming years and will discuss them further at a symposium March 16 at St. Petersburg College.

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Congress asking the right questions on FOIA

A recent letter from Congress to the Justice Department represents a positive development toward strengthening the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The letter, sent Feb. 4 by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, asks what steps the government is taking on a number of key transparency improvements.

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 News from the States 

SPJ letter urges Wyo. governor to support government transparency

Linda Petersen, SPJ Freedom of Information Committee Chair, last week wrote to Wyoming governor Matt Mead asking him to veto a bill concerning public records. The bill, HB223 Public Records — Institutions of Higher Education, would conceal from the public the search process for the University of Wyoming president. Society of Professional Journalists President Sonny Albarado also signed the letter.

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SC House to consider proposal to make lawmakers’ records public

The S.C. House will consider ending part of the exemption that lawmakers have from the state’s sunshine laws. The state’s Freedom of Information Act, which outlines the information that public officials and government bodies must make available to the public, currently exempts members of the General Assembly and their staff from disclosing memos, correspondence and working papers.

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Utah legislators working on open records bills

Two years after Utah lawmakers drew public fury with a restrictive public records bill, some legislators are keeping up a reconciliation effort with bills to designed expand access to public records. Lawmakers have introduced legislation to create online portals for legislative emails and other public records and to require agencies to waive records request fees in certain cases.

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State FOIA Friday

See the latest State FOIA Friday for FOI and local open government news items selected from many of interest that we might not have drawn attention to earlier in the week. The latest issue includes: Colorado fees impede government transparency (poll) … NC public access to gun records enters debate … LSU rebuffs public records request … Use of private emails for public work sparks FOIA battle … Bill could reduce cost of getting public records … The Oregon House passes bill to shield certain bed bug data from public records … Wisconsin Rapids School Board approves rate hike for public records. Read more from the latest State FOIA Friday and be sure to check out our archives from Fridays past.


FOIA Events Calendar

Check the events calendar for FOI, FOIA, open government and transparency goings-on. Upcoming events includes: Florida Sunshine Road Tour, Right to Information and Transparency in the Digital Age, Washington State Open Government Conference, Minnesota Freedom of Information Event, Florida First Amendment Foundation Sunshine Summit, National Freedom of Information Day at Newseum, CGS’s Six Annual Freedom of Information Day Celebration, and more.

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The National Freedom of Information Coalition protects our right to open government. We are a nonpartisan alliance of citizen-driven nonprofit freedom of information organizations, academic and First Amendment centers, journalistic societies and attorneys. Twice annually, NFOIC awards grants to strengthen state coalitions and member organizations, foster their growth, and support a broad range of open government endeavors in individual states. The NFOIC also administers the Knight FOI Fund, which offers financial support to defray costs and expenses in open government lawsuits throughout the year.

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