Transparency News 1/10/18

January 10, 2018
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state & local news stories
quote_1.jpgVCOG's annual legislative chartincludes these bills and others.
The Virginia Public Access Project offers this fantastic one-stop shop for all-things General Assembly, from parking and getting around Capitol Square, to where to eat, how to build alliance and what to know about the people between you and the legislator. BOOKMARK THIS PAGE, not just for the session but for the whole year.

Watch the Senate floor session (today and every day during the session) here:

Watch the House floor session (today and every day during the session) here:

For information on live-streaming and archiving of committee meetings in the House:

(Presumably the Senate will have a similar information page soon.)

Follow the @vahouse and @vasenate on Twitter.

And now for the bills that were filed yesterday:

HB 655 - Murphy: Changes the requirement that local government officials announce certain associations before actions affecting that associations are transacted FROM the first meeting the matter is considered an all subsequent meetings TO the first meeting and at least one subsequent meeting.

HB 664 - Kilore: Requires a public body initiating a transfer of public records to any entity, including to any other public body, to remain the custodian of those records only if the public body has transferred the entirety of those public records. Current law requires the public body initiating a transfer of public records to remain the custodian if it has transferred possession of any public records. The bill also excludes the transfer of a portion of information contained in one public body's public record to another public body from being considered as a transfer of an entire public record. The bill also prohibits a public body from withholding a public record in its entirety on the grounds that information contained in such public record was provided by another public body. The bill defines "custodian" for purposes of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.

HB 683 - Pogge: Deletes provision added last year that says engineering and construction drawings for single-family residential dwellings submitted to comply with the Uniform Statewide Building Code "shall be confidential." They'll still be off-limits under FOIA, though.

HB 701 - Levine: Requires that the Clerk of the House of Delegates and the Clerk of the Senate (by Oct. 1, 2018) stream with closed captioning and record (i) every subcommittee or committee meeting of a standing committee of the General Assembly, regardless of meeting date, and (ii) every floor session of the House of Delegates or the Senate, including any joint session of the houses. The bill defines a meeting as one the date and time of which have been scheduled on a public website of any agency of the General Assembly for at least one hour prior to the meeting and that takes place in the State Capitol, the Pocahontas Building, or the General Assembly Building in Richmond.

HB 727 - Delaney: Amends exemption for security aspects of a system adopted by Virginia's Rail Fixed Guideway Systems Safety Oversight agency FROM a reference to 49 C.F.R. Part 659 TO the Federal Transit Administration regulations.

HB 780 - Habeeb: Provides that a clerk of court shall make nonconfidential court records available to the public upon request. The bill specifies that such records shall be provided no later than 30 days after the request. The bill further provides that the clerk may charge a fee for responding to such request that shall not exceed the actual cost incurred in accessing, duplicating, reviewing, supplying, or searching for the requested records. Finally, the bill requires the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court to make available to the public an online case information system of nonconfidential information for criminal cases by July 1, 2019.

HB 781 - Keam: Creates the Virginia Open Data Initiative Act to increase public awareness of and access to the data created by and available from state agencies. The bill provides for appointment by the Governor of a Chief Data Officer to maintain the official website of the Commonwealth of Virginia as a dedicated open data website.

HB 845 - Ingram: Prohibits a candidate from, with actual malice, sponsoring a political advertisement that contains a false statement of material fact, or otherwise making, publishing, disseminating, or circulating a false statement of material fact, about another candidate for the office to which the sponsoring candidate is seeking to be elected, if such statement is calculated to injure the targeted candidate or his candidacy. Any violation shall be proven by clear and convincing evidence, and, if so proven, a civil penalty of $2,500 shall be assessed against the sponsoring candidate.

HB 904 - Robinson: Creates a general record exclusion for trade secrets submitted to a public body. The bill provides that a record is eligible for exclusion as a trade secret if the submitted information qualifies as a trade secret of the submitting entity as defined in the Uniform Trade Secrets Act (§ 59.1-336 et seq.) and requires the submitting entity to make a written request to the public body (i) invoking such exclusion upon submission of the trade secret information for which protection from disclosure is sought, (ii) identifying with specificity the trade secret information for which protection is sought, and (iii) stating the reasons why protection is necessary. This bill is a recommendation of the Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council.

HB 906 - Robinson: Clarifies the definition of electronic communication in the Virginia Freedom of Information Act by amending it to mean the use of technology having electrical, digital, magnetic, wireless, optical, electromagnetic, or similar capabilities to transmit or receive information. This bill is a recommendation of the Freedom of Information Advisory Council.

HB 907 - Robinson: Consolidates existing provisions concerning public meetings conducted by electronic communication means. The bill contains technical amendments. This bill is a recommendation of the Freedom of Information Advisory Council.

HB 908 - Robinson: Removes the Freedom of Information Act requirement that the remote locations from which members of a public body participate in meetings through electronic communication means be open to the public. Instead, members of the public must be provided an electronic communication means substantially equivalent to that provided to members of the public body through which the public may witness the meeting. The bill provides that public access to remote locations from which members of the public body participate through electronic communication means shall be encouraged, but not required; however, if three or more members are gathered at the same remote location, such remote location must be open to the public. The bill also amends the annual reporting requirements for public bodies that meet by electronic communication means. This bill is a recommendation of the Freedom of Information Advisory Council.

HB 909 - Robinson: Clarifies that the discretionary exemptions contained in the Freedom of Information Act pertaining to law-enforcement and criminal records may be used by any public body. Current law only permits such exemptions to be used by public bodies engaged in criminal law-enforcement activities. The bill also restricts the application of the discretionary exemption for those portions of noncriminal incident or other noncriminal investigative reports or materials that contain identifying information of a personal, medical, or financial nature, the release of which would jeopardize the safety or privacy of any person, to only those portions of noncriminal incident or other noncriminal investigative reports or materials that are in the possession of public bodies (i) engaged in emergency medical services, (ii) engaged in fire protection services, (iii) engaged in criminal law-enforcement activities, or (iv) engaged in processing calls for service or other communications to an emergency 911 system or any other equivalent reporting system. This bill is a recommendation of the Freedom of Information Advisory Council.

SB 289 - McClellan:  Specifies that the Virginia Conflict of Interest and Ethics Advisory Council shall not redact from any document or form made available to the public any business name.

SB 336 - Peake: Requires that every public body afford an opportunity for public comment during any open meeting. The bill requires that the notice given by a public body prior to a meeting include information as to the approximate point during the meeting when public comment will be received. The bill permits public bodies to choose the approximate point during the meeting when public comment will be received and permits public bodies to adopt reasonable rules governing the public comment portion of the meeting, including imposing reasonable restrictions on time, place, and manner.

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Only a quarter of recommendations made by Richmond’s city auditor to city departments were fully implemented by a September deadline, the lowest rate in a decade. Of the 161 outstanding recommendations made by the city’s audit staff over the course of several years and due to be implemented by the end of September, only 40 were completed by the responsible city department. The 25 percent completion rate is the lowest figure since 2009, according to a report presented Tuesday at a meeting of the Richmond City Council’s Audit Committee.
Richmond Times-Dispatch

To replace Paige Cherry, Portsmouth City Council members held a special meeting last week and decided to give another former councilman the job. But then officials realized Ray Smith’s Jan. 3 appointment didn’t count because only three council members voted to hire him, and the city charter requires four votes for such an action. That meant council members had to decide once again whether to hire Smith, who served on the Portsmouth School Board from 1993 to 2002 and on the council from 2004 to 2008. The group voted on the “ratification” of last week’s decision at Tuesday’s regular council meeting. “There’s no sweat,” Smith said Monday. “You know, I’ve been doing this stuff a long time and when things happen to come up, you just kind of roll with it.”

The Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors adopted its new rules Tuesday that some people argue might stifle public input. The board voted 5-1 to approve the rules of procedure for 2018 that moves the meeting normally scheduled for the first Tuesday of the month to 4 p.m. on the first Thursday. Both meetings include a public comment period for audience members to provide input on new and old business agenda items. Audience members can speak during public hearings on specific topics when scheduled. The decision to combine the public comment periods came about because some members of the audience spoke at the wrong part of the meeting, prompting the chairman to interrupt a speaker to explain the rules, Ham said. The single comment section would allow audience members to speak about any topic other than the subject of a public hearing.
Northern Virginia Daily
stories of national interest
teacher was handcuffed at a school board meeting in Louisiana Monday evening -- and the altercation was captured on camera by ABC affiliate KATC. Deyshia Hargrave, an English language arts teacher at Rene A. Rost Middle School in Kaplan, was taken into custody after she was removed from the meeting, where she raised issues about Vermilion Parish School System's superintendent receiving a new three-year deal that includes a raise, KATC reports. That's when a deputy marshal employed by the school district, according to KATC, confronted Hargrave. The marshal asked Hargrave to sit down or be removed. Hargrave left on her own, but the dispute between the teacher and the marshal became physical outside the meeting room, video shows. The teacher is seen on video screaming on the ground and being handcuffed by the deputy marshal. "If a teacher has the authority to send a student that's acting up in the classroom that she can't control, out of the classroom to the principal's office. Under our policy, we have the same rules," school board president Anthony Fontana said. "The marshal did his job."
ABC News

quote_2.jpg"If a teacher has the authority to send a student that's acting up in the classroom that she can't control, out of the classroom to the principal's office. Under our policy, we have the same rules,"