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Smart enough for government records

Did you know you’re not smart enough to read government information?

You don’t understand legal terminology. You don’t understand context. You can’t distinguish between facts and distortions, not to mention your lack of ability to pick up on self-serving statements.

So, rather than make you feel bad about yourself, some in government would like to help you out. If the information isn’t easily available to you, you’ll never know what you’re missing.

Another stealth workgroup? Really?

It seems like only yesterday I was writing about a workgroup the governor designed to advise a public body that would operate outside the Freedom of Information Act.

Ah yes. Those were the days.

I mean, they're still the days.

Not so bad up close

An article published over the weekend in Virginia Statehouse News and reprinted by the Daily Press, breathlessly warns us that under a bill awaiting the governor’s signature, “Email records obtained under FOIA will no longer feature information identifying people who talk with local lawmaker

GPS tracking in the dark

We need your help!

A month into the General Assembly session and after crossover, two identical bills were introduced to address the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in United States v. Jones, which said that it is a "search" under the 4th Amendment if the police put a GPS device on someone's vehicle.

A conversation about public notices

They’re gray. They’re not very attractive. They’re sometimes confusing. But they are essential to the public’s ability to know what its government is doing…and when.

 

They are public notices, also called legal notices, and they are in your local newspaper for a reason: to keep you informed.

 

Public notices = Public access

There are some local government actions that the legislature has said are important enough that they must have a special hearing. Often a public comment period must be included, which is not the case for ordinary public meetings.

For decades, the legislature has required that notice of these special hearings (called "public notices") be published in the local newspaper because that has been the best way to reach the most people, and the biggest cross-section of any given community.

Why we oppose efforts to close off access to CHPs

The sponsors are different each year, but the goal is the same: prohibit the disclosure at local courthouses of concealed handgun permit applications (CHPs).

VCOG has opposed the bills in past years and it will again this year. I know a lot of people will disagree with VCOG. Some may agree. As an open government advocacy group, this issue for us is about access to government records. There's no other agenda here.

Not ready for their close up?

Here's what Virginia's FOIA says in section 2.2-3707(H) about recording meetings:

Any person may photograph, film, record or otherwise reproduce any portion of a meeting required to be open. The public body conducting the meeting may adopt rules governing the placement and use of equipment necessary for broadcasting, photographing, filming or recording a meeting to prevent interference with the proceedings, but shall not prohibit or otherwise prevent any person from photographing, filming, recording, or otherwise reproducing any portion of a meeting required to be open.

FOIA before & after the election

Tuesday is Election Day. All 140 seats of the General Assembly are up for grabs (well, far too many of the seats are not up for grabs because redistricting has put many senators and delegates into "safe" districts). Throw in all the races for local boards of supervisors, town councils, school boards and constitutional officers, and we will easily see hundreds of new faces in elected office come November 9.

Virginia records for all

(This article appeared on the McLean Patch site Monday, Oct. 24, 2011)

There's a court case being heard Tuesday in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond.

Anyone who's followed the Virginia Coalition for Open Government over the years has heard me talk about McBurney v. Young: the case challenging Virginia law that says Virginia FOIA is for Virginians. It's not for Tennesseeans or North Carolinians, or, mon dieu, for Californians.

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