Joint statement on barring journalists from the floor of the Virginia Senate

The Virginia Senate this week has decided to move the public's business farther from the public.

The Virginia Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, the Virginia Press Association, and the Virginia Coalition for Open Government are disappointed by Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment's action to refuse to allow journalists onto the Senate floor to cover the General Assembly proceedings, as reported by The Richmond Times-Dispatch, The Washington Post and others. Norment has banished the press to cramped quarters where it is difficult to do its job.

Editorial: State lacks commitment to transparency

It is clear that Virginia’s state legislature has no real commitment to transparency when the vice-chairman of the Freedom of Information Act Council puts forth a bill to weaken the state’s already woeful open-government standards.

State Sen. Richard Stuart (R-Fredericksburg) has proposed a bill that would mean the salaries of state employees making less than $30,320 per year would not be made public. The bill also says that the names of any public officer, appointee or employee could be excluded from any database of public salaries.

Bill filed by FOIA Council vice chair would hide salaries, names of public workers

The vice chairman of the state FOIA Council has submitted a bill that would exempt from the public the names of people who earn their living from the public's pocketbook.

Sen. Richard Stuart (R-Fredericksburg) filed Senate Bill 202 on Tuesday. The new language sharply reduces the salary figures that can be made public. It goes a step further, excluding the names of "any public officer, appointee or employee" from any database of public salaries.

FOIA Council discusses 3 bills on access to public information

Discussion during Wednesday’s meeting of the Virginia FOIA Council focused on the implications of a recent Virginia Supreme Court ruling that permitted public bodies to withhold entire documents simply because a portion of the document was exempt from the state’s Freedom Of Information Act. That runs sharply afoul of FOIA language that emphasizes only exempt information be redacted while the remainder is made public.

Judge: Denying access to database is 'nonsensical'

A judge in Newport News has refused to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the Daily Press and reporter Dave Ress that seeks access to a statewide database of circuit court records.

In a story reported by Ryan Murphy of the Daily Press, Circuit Court Judge David Pugh called objections to releasing the database "nonsensical." Pugh added that the Office of the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court of Virginia - the defendant in the lawsuit - appears to be responsible for making the database available. Pugh scheduled a trial for Feb. 16, 2016.

Porto: Tell us your FOIA challenges

The Daily Press Media Group in 2014 filed hundreds of requests under Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act seeking access to public records in the Hampton Roads area. Some of those requests started as simple questions, but local officials demanded that our reporters file formal requests for records, then said they would charge hundreds of dollars for the information, fees they insisted were reasonable.

That speaks to the attitude that’s a problem.

Rhyne: Conversations lead to innovation

This is a column about conversations. 

Usually when I write about conversations, it’s within the context of public officials having them when the public isn’t present or privy to them. I take umbrage at the machinations of those who devise ways to exploit loopholes, and frown at those who would value efficiency over accountability.

But not today. The conversations I’m interested in today are the ones where citizens, government and, for lack of better term, techies, are talking to each other.