Sunlight Weekly Roundup: “Initiatives for ‘open government’ either improve access or hinder it.”

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  • While summarizing the changes Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst hopes to implement with the Senate Select Committee on Open Government, Curt Olsen reminds, “Initiatives for ‘open government’ either improve access or hinder it.” Olsen maintains that each change should be watched carefully, as, “ State lawmakers can pass laws that enhance openness and transparency or they can pass laws that cause mischief and erect a new hurdle for taxpayers to have access to government.” The proposed changes include: “The use of new technologies and future technological advances as relates to the creation of public information” and “Study ways to define and address frivolous and/or overly-burdensome open records requests. “State lawmakers can pass laws that enhance openness and transparency or they can pass laws that cause mischief and erect a new hurdle for taxpayers to have access to government.” For the entire list and Olsen’s opinion, check out his post on Texas Budget Source.
  • In her assessment of the state of Minnesota transparency, Mary Tracey maintains, “What matters to most citizens is the right to access to information by and about state, regional and local government information – state agencies, county boards, advisory committees and regulators, every entity from the Governor’s office to the local school board. In her post on Poking Around With Mary, she summarizes the open government portals available to Minnesotans: The twin pillars of access in Minnesota are the Data Practices Act and the Open Meeting Law.  Essential guides to each include these:  Open Meeting Law,Government Data Practices Act.  The Legislative Reference Libraryalso offers a comprehensive list of guides and information about parallel laws and regulations in other states.” She urges citizens who are concerned with government transparency to “be aware of the agencies’ responsibilities to assure compliance with the spirit and the letter of the law.”
  • In Hawaii, the House Labor and Public Employees Committee on Friday rejected a bill that did not disclose the names and exact salaries but did disclose job titles and salary ranges. The committee decided that names, titles and salaries for state and county workers should remain public information. Siding with advocates of government transparency, a Hawaii state House committee says the names, titles and salaries for state and county workers should remain public information. Supporters of the proposed bill cited identify-theft concerns as the reason why the state should not disclose exact salaries and employee names, however, no one could cite a single case of identify-theft linked to the disclosure of public employee information. Blogger and open-government advocate Larry Geller testified that the measure “threatens to chip away at the edges of public records law.” For more information, read Chad Blair’s post on Honolulu Civil Beat.
  • At a forum on Monday, Robert Freeman, the executive director of New York State’s Committee on Open Government, answered audience questions regarding the state’s Open Meetings Law and the Freedom of Information Law. Both, Freeman said, are based on common-sense. On February 2, an amendment to the Open Meetings Law will take effect. The amendment will require boards to provide information about items being discussed. “People were frustrated for years because they didn’t have the ability to become families with records to be discussed during meetings,” he said. ”The amendment will go a long way to providing information before meetings.” For the entire story, see Robin Traum’s post on New City Patch.

     

     

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