Editorial: Legislative session a mixed bag for freedom of information – Norwich Bulletin

Freedom of information has always been a fluid proposition, its execution shifting with court decisions, new laws and changing conditions and technology. After the General Assembly’s sessions this year, we perceive in the evolution of open information a big victory, a big whiff and a minor loss. The last bespeaks an undemocratic budget implementation practice that could presage more significant damage to government transparency in future sessions.

As we have noted, the Legislature laudably unraveled the Connecticut Supreme Court’s ruling that limited public access to police records. In so doing, legislators restored public accountability to police proceedings, thereby advancing the overall cause of freedom of information — or at least returning it to the level we had experienced before the ruling.

Legislators also struck out in their attempts to subject the UConn Foundation to public information law. The nonprofit fundraising arm of the state university enjoys exemption from the law’s requirements, to the disservice of UConn students in particular and Connecticut taxpayers on the whole.

The foundation’s justification [Read More]

Malloy’s budget office, legislators backed FOI reduction – Journal Inquirer

By Mike Savino

Legislation protecting communications among members of the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority from public disclosure when they occur outside scheduled meetings appears to have the blessing of both lawmakers and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration.

Malloy’s budget office, at the request of PURA, negotiated the language into the bill that implements the state budget.

But the language originated as a provision of an amendment that members of the legislature’s Energy and Technology Committee drafted for a bill to cap, reduce, or eliminate fixed fees on electrical bills as a way to promote energy conservation. That amendment, which was never subject to a public hearing, cleared the Senate but was never brought before the House of Representatives for a vote.

Gian-Carl Casa, the undersecretary for legislative affairs in the state Office of Policy and Management, said the office negotiated the language back into the budget implementer at the request of PURA. The authority is part of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, meaning it is within the executive branch of state government.

Mark Bergman, a spokesman for Malloy, said he was unaware of the language being included in negotiations and declined to comment further.

But PURA spokesman Mike Coyle said the change is necessary because the requirements of the state Freedom of Information Act were interfering [Read More]

Opinion: Who let the ‘rats’ in? – Journal Inquirer

By Chris Powell

While freedom of information prevailed with some big stuff during this year’s sessions of the General Assembly, legislators still snuck secrecy into bills here and there, and of course did it secretly as well.

At least two such incidents involved the budget “implementer” bill, which was passed in the legislature’s special session.

The “implementer” is supposed to do no more than implement decisions already made by budget legislation, whose provisions have faced public hearing and discussion. But the “implementer” often is used to enact policies that have received no scrutiny at all. Since legislators are given little time to review the “implementer” before a vote is called, unscrutinized provisions — in legislative jargon, “rats” — sometimes become law.

That was the case with an “implementer” provision to exempt the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority from the state Freedom of Information Act. Authority members said they didn’t want their communications with each other between meetings [Read More]