The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that would create the most sweeping reforms to federal open records laws in nearly a decade. The measure would limit exemptions under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) that now allow federal agencies to hold back information.
The bill would also create a single online portal for people to make FOIA requests and require agencies to publicly post frequently requested records online. The new bill, the FOIA Oversight and Implementation Act, H.R. 653, represents the most significant push to overhaul the FOIA system since 2007. The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary.
MAB is tracking.
State Senator Dale Zorn (R-17) submitted legislation to repeal a recently enacted prohibition on schools and local governments from providing factual information on ballot questions during the 60 days prior to the vote. Dubbed “a gag order” by schools, local governments, and media groups who lobbied Governor Snyder to veto a bill primarily dealing with campaign finance changes (SB 571, now PA 269), Zorn issued a statement saying that his bill would repeal the section of the law that has been so controversial.
When Snyder signed the bill, he called on the Legislature to swiftly pass a trailer bill, making clear the law does not infringe upon the expression of personal views by a public official or the use of resources or facilities in the ordinary course of business. MAB is tracking.
According to Broadcast Law Blog, one of the biggest issues in radio may see some action by the FCC before the end of January. The FCC has circulated a proposal among the commissioners to adopt a requirement for an online public file for radio, cable and satellite. In his blog post, FCC Chairman Wheeler confirmed that the commission is due to vote on this issue at the FCC meeting on January 28.
According to a report in Radio Business Report (RBR), the Competitive Carriers Association (CCA) told the FCC that the 39-month timeline to repack television stations into their new channels and the $1.75 billion to compensate broadcasters for the move is enough time and money. The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) says that neither is true.
It is unclear how many television stations will take part in the auction – that is why the NAB is urging the commission to wait until after the auction to establish a repacking schedule. “Broadcasters should not be forced off the air if they are unable to make the transition to their new channels due to factors outside their control,” wrote NAB General Counsel and EVP Rick Kaplan in an ex parte notice filed with the FCC.
The NAB commissioned a technical study looking at the resources, costs and timeline for a nationwide repack. The study found that it could cost “substantially” more than the $1.75 billion set aside in relocation funds and take longer than the 39-months deadline.
According to the GOP-led report released last week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) might be deliberately withholding public records. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee report concluded that the FCC’s is either incompetent or intentionally misused redactions under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to withhold internal communication about its internet regulations.
“The agency either misunderstands how to use redactions, raising concerns of competency, or the agency intentionally misuses redactions, raising concerns of integrity,” according to the report. “Given the numerous examples in which the FCC improperly redacts information, this may be a deliberate tactic to withhold information from the public.”
The report concluded that the open records process is broken within the broader federal government. About a quarter of the report was dedicated to side-by-side comparisons of FCC documents, which were redacted when sent to journalists but provided in full to the committee.
State employees who are caught manipulating data could be convicted of a felony under legislation state representative Phil Phelps (D-49) plans to introduce. The legislation is aimed at preventing government corruption by making it a felony for any state employee to knowingly manipulate data that would change the outcome of an official report. The felony would be punishable by up to five years in prison.
“As we began to comb through all of the facts surrounding Flint’s water crisis it was frightening to learn that there were very few laws on our books that protect the public from potential government abuse such as data manipulation,” Phelps said in a statement. Lawmaker stated that he plans to introduce the bill at the end of January after the House of Representatives resumes session.