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Archive for the ‘Sunshine Laws’ Category

A brand new website for federal public access

In Sunshine Laws on March 15, 2011 at 2:19 am

By Karen Koehler

 

The Washington State Legislature has not (yet) caved to government pressure to roll back the laws on  public disclosure requests.

The government’s responsiveness under the Freedom of Information Act is widely considered a barometer of how transparent it is.  “Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their government is doing,” President Obama said when he took office.”

This week, our nation’s Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli announced the unveiling of a website, foia.gov.  It provides the public with a centralized resource that details how to file requests for government records.

What a novel idea.  Helping citizens understand how to file a FOIA request.  Instead of trying to shut them out.

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Leave our public disclosure laws alone

In Rob McKenna, Sunshine Laws on February 20, 2011 at 7:15 am

By Karen Koehler

Led by Attorney General Rob McKenna, local and state governments are asking the legislature to roll back our public disclosure laws.

The excuse – why budgets of course.   Politicians know the best time to change a popular law, is during a time of financial crisis.  “Blame it on the budget” is a handy tactic.

Public disclosure laws are called sunshine laws.  When we ask, our government has to show us what it is doing.

It’s a bad idea to allow government to drag its heels, or to refuse to produce documents.   Sure, it may be inconvenient .  But without these laws, newspaper reporters wouldn’t be able to expose government waste and abuse.  And we taxpayers wouldn’t be able to find out the truth.

Sunshine law in jeopardy

In Sunshine Laws on January 22, 2011 at 10:53 am

By Karen Koehler

The Public Records Act requires the government to produce documents when requested by citizens and the press.  It is called the Sunshine Act because without it, government can hide in the dark.

There is a built in  incentive for the government to follow the law.  If it doesn’t, it must pay a penalty and attorneys fees for the person who has to sue to get the records.  This usually works quite well.

The legislature is considering changing the law. If passed, HB 1044 will create a new  agency called the “Office of Public Records.”  This agency would have the right to decide whether the government should provide documents.

Our government doesn’t need to erect more barriers by creating more bureaucracy.  Removing current financial incentives is a bad idea.