Sunlight Weekly Round-up: Illinois to delay FOIA requests

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While advocating for writing and printing as one of the strongest pillars of support for free government — the absence of which — would be detrimental, the “father of FOI Anders Chydenius, in his “Memorandum on the Freedom of the Press” once said that…

Learning and good manners would be suppressed, coarseness in thought, speech and customs would flourish, and sinister gloom would within a few years darken our entire sky of freedom.

Though spoken in 1775, these words resonate with what is happening with FOIA today especially in states such as Illinois. It may not be outright coarseness in thought, but when decisions are made to suppress freedom of information, it becomes incumbent upon us to demand for even more “sunshine” from our leaders.

 

  • A bill that will delay FOIA requests and authorize a public body to charge a records requester for the actual cost of retrieving and transporting public records from an off-site storage facility, has been passed by both the Senate and House in Illinois. Sponsored by Don Harmon and Barbara Flynn Currie, HB 1716 will prioritize requests made by “infrequent requesters” while deliberately delaying those made by “recurrent requesters”. Carl Skinner wonders if this is Harmon’s idea of reform for the Freedom of Information Act and points out that the bill was passed based on suggestions made by government bodies instead of consulting the public. He details who voted for and against it on McHenry County Blog.
  • For a state that was once ranked 49th by the 2008 Better Government Association Integrity Index , Vermont is set to turn a new transparency page. Gov. Peter Shumlin signed a bill that will strengthen the state’s public records law by requiring reimbursement of legal fees for citizens who successfully challenge a denied request for documents. Authored by Rep. Donna G. Sweaney, H 73 will establish a government transparency office to enforce the public records act. Sheldon Toplitt adds that the new law will also create a panel to review the over 200 exemptions currently existing. More on the Unruly of Law.
  • There is a group improving local government transparency in Minnesota by pushing for  standardized financial reporting with details of the state’s spending including public officials’ salaries and expenses. Open Government Minnesota, is proposing a business-like approach “Object Code”, to  provide access to data that can be used to create an open public discussion.  Read how this will boost transparency in local government on Big Fat Finance Blog.
  • There is a new tool that is revolutionizing the way government functions and communicates with its citizens. Youtown — a mobile device that provides a two-way interaction between citizens and their government — is fast becoming a popular way of making mobile local government easy. Created by DotGov , a Seattle startup, the tool is now being used by several states including Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas. Aislyn Greene writes that though residents will use the tool for free, local governments will have to pay to access feedback. See who else is using it on Venture Blog.
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