The NFOIC open government blog is a compendium of original concepts and analysis as well as ideas, edited excerpts and materials from a variety of sources. When the information comes from another source, we will attribute it and provide a link. The blog relies on the accuracy and integrity of the original sources cited; we will correct errors and inaccuracies when we become aware of them.

For Advocate posts prior to July, 2011, visit http://foiadvocate.blogspot.com/.
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April 10, 2017 9:19 PM

Each year, Oklahoma legislators and statewide elected officials must report details about their personal finances to alert the public to potential conflicts of interest.

This year, however, they generally will be asked to report fewer facts than ever – that is, since the disclosure rules were approved in 1994.

The Oklahoma Ethics Commission has revised the disclosure form and slashed the number of state employees required to file it, from nearly 6,000 to 362. Only legislators, statewide elected officials and judges must file the form, with agency heads and other state workers exempt.

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April 10, 2017 9:17 PM

[Dick] Conway has worked as an economist and forecaster for business and government for more than 30 years. In 2001, he served on a committee commissioned by the state Legislature to examine Washington’s tax system and how well it functions. He’s continued that research on his own ever since.

In a report released last month, Conway devised a system for ranking the 50 states on the “transparency” of their tax structure — in other words, how easily folks can tell how much they pay in total taxes.

Washington ranked 49th out of 50.

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April 7, 2017 10:47 PM

Even the divided Clay County Commission agreed: County Counselor Kevin Graham needed help reducing the backlog of Sunshine Law requests.

But the commission – and several office holders – are split on whether the county should continue employing a Kansas City attorney who charges $373.50 an hour.

Graham had been handling the requests on his own, he said, until the load multiplied.

According to logs kept by the county clerk’s office, twice as many information requests were made in 2016, an election year, than in 2015. That prompted the commission to hire Spencer Fane, a Kansas City, Mo., law firm to handle the backlog.

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April 7, 2017 10:45 PM

Legislation allowing nonresidents of Delaware to request public records under the state's Freedom of Information Act ran into a roadblock Wednesday in the General Assembly.

Currently, public bodies do not have to respond to FOIA requests from anyone who is not a resident of Delaware.

The proposed legislation, which was tabled in committee Wednesday, would remove that restriction while allowing state agencies and public bodies to charge higher fees to nonresidents, as long as they reasonably reflect the costs needed to defray expenses.

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April 7, 2017 10:43 PM

he Indiana Senate has approved a bill allowing government agencies to charge $20 per hour for public records requests that take more than two hours to complete.

The measure by Republican Rep. Kathy Richardson of Noblesville passed the Senate on a 44-3 vote Wednesday.

Under the proposal, the first two hours would not be billed. After that, hours spent working to complete the request would come with a bill that's the lesser of $20 per hour or the hourly wage of the employee completing the search.

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April 6, 2017 11:25 PM

The New England First Amendment Coalition is pleased to announce a $45,000 grant from the Barr Foundation in Boston to help strengthen journalism and protect freedom of the press.

“The Barr Foundation’s generosity will allow us to improve and expand our educational programming,” said Justin Silverman, NEFAC’s executive director. “These are challenging times for journalists and the public’s right to know. This grant will help NEFAC continue to be a leading advocate for the First Amendment and journalists throughout New England.”

The foundation identified NEFAC as one of seven organizations focused on strengthening quality investigative work and protections for freedom of the press. Other grant recipients include the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, ProPublica and the Center for Investigative Reporting. The Barr Foundation grant is to provide core support and will be payable over 36 months.

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April 6, 2017 11:22 PM

Capriglione’s House Bill 792 would force government entities to be more specific when asserting the right to withhold documents the government believes would hamper a private company’s competitive stance.

The bill is a response to a 2015 state Supreme Court ruling that allowed aerospace giant Boeing to keep secret its lease agreement with the U.S. Department of Defense. The ruling carved out a space for private entities doing government business to protect information that those companies believe would give an advantage to a competitor or bidder.

Another proposal from Capriglione, House Bill 793, would make clear that an organization receiving public funds under specified conditions would be subject to public records requirements.

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April 6, 2017 11:18 PM

A required “cooling-down period” aimed at resolving open-records disputes without litigation continued its easy journey in the Colorado legislature on Wednesday.

HB 17-1177, approved by the House 65-0 last month after being completely rewritten in committee, passed unanimously in the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.

The bill, which now heads to the Senate floor, requires a 14-day waiting period if someone who is denied records under the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) wishes to challenge the denial in court. During that time period, the records custodian must speak with the requester in person or by phone in an attempt to resolve the dispute.

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April 5, 2017 10:48 PM

Bids submitted by companies vying for a state government contract will be exempted from public-records requests until the contract winner is announced under legislation signed by Gov. Rick Snyder.

The law, which takes effect immediately, shield records containing a trade secret or financial or propriety information from being released under the state's Freedom of Information Act.

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April 5, 2017 10:46 PM

United States cities face a critical challenge when it comes to fulfilling the potential of open data: that of moving beyond the mere provision of access to data toward the active facilitation of stakeholder use of data in ways that bring about community impact. Sunlight has been researching innovative projects and strategies that have helped cities tackle this challenge head on. Today we’re excited to share a guide for our new approach to open data in U.S. cities–an approach we’re calling “Tactical Data Engagement,” designed to drive community impact by connecting the dots between open data, public stakeholders, and collaborative action.

In the spirit of the collaborative approaches we recommend, we’ll be continuing to speak to experts and public officials in city government for the next few months to learn how to better adapt Tactical Data Engagement to fit cities’ needs.

Let us know what you think by reaching out to local@sunlightfoundation.com or by leaving a comment in the public Google Doc [after the jump]. Enter your comments by May 1 to get your ideas into our first round of revisions.

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April 5, 2017 10:44 PM

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to review a First Circuit Court of Appeals decision to strike down a New Hampshire law banning “ballot selfies.”

By declining to review the case, the court has allowed the First Circuit ruling to stand, a result the New England First Amendment Coalition calls a victory for the First Amendment and open government.

NEFAC filed an amici brief — drafted on behalf of the coalition by attorneys at the Harvard Law School Cyberlaw Clinic — last year arguing that the New Hampshire law is an unconstitutional restriction on free speech and could impede the public’s ability to monitor its government.

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April 5, 2017 12:47 AM

A bipartisan and bicameral group of lawmakers reintroduced Wednesday the OPEN Government Data Act — a bill that passed the Senate last year but stalled in the House.

The bill, which would set a presumption that federal data should be published online in a machine-readable format, has a broad support from open data advocates, government spending watchdogs and the technology industry.

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