A Little Sunshine: After a period of eclipse, anti-secrecy and open-government laws are making a comeback

Source: Melissa Maynard, Governing, Vol. 20 no. 10, July 2007

… The Taurus case is part of a modest but growing revival of interest around the country in open-government issues and sunshine laws. It reverses a clear trend toward secrecy that prevailed at all levels from 2001 to 2005, stimulated by the actions of the federal government and fueled by concerns about terrorism and identity theft. “We’ve been getting governors and mayors who think they’re running little White Houses,” says Charles Davis, director of the Missouri-based Freedom of Information Coalition. They had support from Washington in their efforts. In the wake of 9/11, the federal government created an exemption to the Freedom of Information Act that preempted state sunshine laws. Under the Homeland Security Act, state governments were forbidden to release “critical infrastructure information” in the name of national security. But while exemptions to state open-meetings and -records laws continue to be proposed by the hundreds, the pendulum has begun to swing back in the direction of access. State-level freedom of information coalitions are proliferating and becoming more influential, especially in states that have relatively weak anti- secrecy laws on the books.

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