Sunlight Weekly Roundup: Indiana narrows public’s ability to review government emails

  •  Indiana’s new public access counselor has limited the public’s ability to request and review the email exchanges of government officials. In 2009,  then-public access counselor Heather Neal decided that “mail records requests should be tied to the subject matter sought.” Moreover, she maintained that, “A request for all email of a specific government employee, even if limited to a certain time frame, did not fit the requirement that public records requests be reasonably particular.” According to Steve Kay of Hoosier State Press Association, “Neal’s ruling uses a dictionary definition as the guidepost for the intent of the law. Her opinion strays from the legislative mandate that the Access to Public Records Act be tilted toward citizen desires and the common-sense intent of legislators that government be transparent.”  Kay holds that this decision represents a departure from the philosophy of government transparency by “crimping the public’s ability to investigate what public officials are doing.”
  • Nevada’s Carson City has been listed by e.Republic’s Center for Digital Government and the Digital Community Program as being among the top U.S. metro areas to effectively use the internet and technology. In cities with a population of between 30,00-74,999, Carson City ranked second out of 10. Carson City was the only Nevada municipality recognized in the survey. Todd Sander, director of e.Republic’s Digital Communities, maintained, “The highest-ranking cities in the survey showed great strides in consolidating, enabling shared services, government transparency and communications interoperability.” For more information and the entire list of winners, check out Jeff Munson’s post on Carson Now.
  • A New York state judge has ruled that a lawsuit filed by New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedom against the New York State Senate, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, and the New York State Department of Health may proceed. The lawsuit challenges New York’s same sex marriage law. The plaintiffs argue the law was passed as a result of a combination of factors, from Senate meetings that violated New York State Open Meeting Laws to promises of campaign contributions for Republican senators who changed their vote. The suit also cites atypical procedures in the Senate, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s waiving the constitutionally required three-day review period before a legislative vote, lobbyists and the general public being denied access to representatives, and private dinners at the Governor’s mansion. For the full story, read Lauren Rodgers’ post on Ballot News.
  • The Maryland Register, a official state news publication that provides updates on state regulations, legal opinions and hearings, has reversed a decision to charge consumers for its real-time, online news. Had the decision gone through, consumers would have had to pay a $190 annual feel to get news on the same day of its publication.  According to Register Editor Gail Klakring,“The Register is once again available online on the day it’s published for non-paying consumers. We realized that any change to the availability of Maryland Register has had an unintended impact on the transparency of Government and that was never the intent.” The fee was added in October prompting a complaint by the Maryland Chamber of Commerce to the state’s Joint Committee on Transparency and Open Government. Committee member Delegate Heather Mizeur sees this issue as a threat to government transparency. The Maryland Reporter’s Glynis Kazanjian maintains that Mizeur “went on to criticize the Secretary of State’s Office for what appeared to be a reversal in progress in government transparency.”