Record Access and Relief Funds: A State-by-State ‘Issue’

What is your Right-to-Know and how have the events of 2020 impacted your access to Public Records? It depends which state you’re in.

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Featured

Missouri Attorney General can’t enforce Sunshine Laws in governor’s office because it’s ‘a client’

Attorney General Eric Schmitt has determined his office cannot investigate an alleged violation of Missouri’s open records laws by the governor’s office, an interpretation of state law that has transparency advocates alarmed.

Missouri’s attorney general’s office is in charge of enforcing the Sunshine Law, which requires meetings, records, votes, actions and deliberations of public governmental bodies be open to the public. Besides a complaint to the attorney general, the only other remedy for Missourians who feel the Sunshine Law has been violated is to hire a private attorney and file a lawsuit.

In response to a Sunshine Law complaint by The Independent over Missouri Gov. Mike Parson’s refusal to turn over the resignation letters of two cabinet members, Schmitt’s office said it could not get involved because the governor’s office is considered a client.

Read More | The Kansas Star

Legislation

Michigan bill aiming to plug state's FOIA loophole advances

HB 4778, which was voted out of the Communications and Technology Committee, is straightforward.

It aims to amend the law to require the Department of Technology, Management, and Budget to ban all state departments from using any app, software, or other technology that prevents it from preserving a public record through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) as required by law.

The bill follows a Detroit Free Press article exposing the Michigan State Police for using Signal, an encrypted app, to avoid handing over personal communication via the FOIA.

Read More | Iosco County News-Herald

Critics say FOIA bill is bad for Delaware government transparency

Democratic lawmakers and Attorney General Kathy Jennings are seeking to give government officials more power to hide public documents from the public.

A bill proposing those changes passed its first committee hurdle [the week of June 6]. It seeks to empower government officials to deny requests for public records that those officials deem “unreasonably broad, unduly burdensome, abusive” or intended to “disrupt the essential functions of the public body.”

Advocates of open government have criticized the legislation, saying the vague language in Senate Bill 155 would allow government officials to withhold more receipts, emails and other documents that show the work of public officials and cover up things they do not want exposed.

Read More | Delaware Online News

Litigation

New Jersey can release names of cops who were disciplined, court rules

Police departments will be required to annually publish the names of officers who were fired, demoted, or suspended for more than five days, according to a ruling from the New Jersey Supreme Court.

A summary of the misconduct and the sanction imposed must also be disclosed. Previously, the Attorney General fought to shield the identities of law enforcement officers disciplined for serious misconduct.

The decision comes a week after the state announced grant money for departments across the state to purchase and implement body-worn cameras for all their officers.

Read More | Patch News

Peer Resource

ARPA funding for Public Records - state specific plans

What are your state Governor’s plans for ARPA funds?
GovQA is collecting data around state-specific ARPA plans and we’re happy to report that some states have already earmarked ARPA funds to modernize government services. See a few excerpts here, then use the table to find your state.

Read More | GovQA

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The Peers in Public Records Newsletter (formerly FOIA News) is a bi-monthly e-newsletter brought to you by GovQA. It is a collection of the latest trends in public record requests and government transparency initiatives, shared stories, informative case studies, and actionable knowledge that will help you calm the chaos and keep your organization compliant. Send your comments to peers@govqa.com.

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