FOI Rapid Response Team

Brechner gift will aid FOI

From a story in University of Florida News

GAINESVILLE, FL — Marion Brechner recently gave $100,000 to the University of Florida for a joint project with the National Freedom of Information Coalition.

The Joseph L. Brechner Center for Freedom of Information and the Marion Brechner Citizen Access Project will receive $50,000 each to hold a 30th annniversary celebration and to work with NFOIC in developing a response apparatus to proposed anti-access legislation, respectively.

The response project is creating FOI 911—a Rapid Response Team designed to provide information to FOI activists fighting legislation that would limit access to records and meetings that should be public. Graduate students at the University of Florida and NFOIC headquarters in Columbia, Missouri, will field calls and emails about state laws relevant to proposed anti-access legislation.

“We’ve long lacked a responsive mechanism for proposed legislative exemptions, and this gift allows us to begin the process of building such a system,” said Professor Charles Davis, Executive Director of NFOIC. “This gives us the resources we need to level the playing field a bit in the interest of openness.”

When a new exemption is proposed, the students will look at all the other state laws for model legislative language, and will look for examples of how the records in question have served the public interest. “Talking points” memos on the proposals will then be distributed to state FOI groups for their use.

“When citizens fighting to protect access to public documents are facing well-financed lobby groups wanting to keep specific records from the public, the pro-access interests usually have limited places to find the information they need for the legislative fight ahead,” said Bill Chamberlin, the project’s director. “This initiative will enable anyone with a major interest in protecting public access to have a chance to get the information they need about what other states are doing.”