January 2013    
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  "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." 

Follow NEFAC's ongoing First Amendment conversation as it develops across New England 
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NEFAC awards winners 
to be named this week
   The winners of  NEFAC's first-ever Citizen and FOI Awards will be announced this week in preparation for the Feb. 8 annual luncheon.
   The Citizen Award goes to someone who showed tenacity or bravery in obtaining information the public has a right to know. 
  The FOI Award recognizes journalists for work that protects or advances the public's right to know under federal or state law.
    The luncheon also will see the presentation of the third annual Stephen Hamblett First Amendment Award to Philip Balboni, founder of the TV news network NECN and co-founder of the international news site, GlobalPost.
   Tickets for the luncheon at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel are available on the NEFAC Web site.

Keep up with First Amendment issues via NEFAC's blog

   It's a forum for citizens, journalists, students, public policy advocates and government officials to have their say on First Amendment issues.
   The blog is maintained by the staff of the New England First Amendment Center at the School of Journalism at Northeastern University.
   Submit comments to Laura Crimaldi:
Maine Network Will Shine Light on How the State Conducts Its Business
By Larry Laughlin 

   The Maine Public Broadcasting Network is ready to put $300,000 into real-time, televised coverage of the state Senate and House to find out if there is an audience for the theater of state government.


   The six-month Maine Capitol Connection project is slated to launch Feb. 4, initially with up to five hours of daily coverage, live or recorded.

   At a time when partisan divide is the norm from Washington, D.C., to state capitals, the leaders in Augusta are behind this advance in government transparency.

   "Somebody joked that this is the only thing the governor, Democrats and Republicans seem to agree on," said Mal Leary, who's closing his venerable Capitol News Service to direct coverage to be carried on a free channel provided by MPBN.    Read more   

In RI Case, Supreme Court Will Decide if States Can Close Borders to Flow of Info
By Steven Brown 
   PROVIDENCE, R.I. - By late June, we should know whether, in an age of the World Wide Web, states can constitutionally get away with closing their borders to the release of information.
   More than a dozen organizations promoting open government filed a brief this month in the U.S. Supreme Court in a case that may decide, at some level, whether access to government information is a fundamental right.
   Oral arguments are to be heard Feb. 20.
   The dispute involves Virginia's Freedom of Information Act which, along with those of at least two other states, guarantees access to public records to in-state residents only.  Read more 
VT State Police Scandal Underlines Need for More Light on Law Enforcement Practices
By Aki Soga
   BURLINGTON, Vt. -  Gov. Peter Shumlin had good reason to ask lawmaker earlier this month to take up legislation to i
Aki Soga
to criminal investigative files.

   The governor has good reason to push for increased transparency to better enable the public to keep an eye on how members of law enforcement agencies go about their jobs.

   The state is still wracked by a scandal involving a Vermont State Police sergeant who was caught collecting overtime pay for hours he never worked. The state says he defrauded taxpayers of nearly $213,000 six years and wrote nearly a 1,000 fake traffic tickets as part of his deceit.  Read more

Room for Improvement, but Chafee's Transparency Site Has a Lot to Offer    
By Tim White
    PROVIDENCE, R.I. - There's a lot to like about Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee's new transparency website. There's also room for improvement.
Tim White
Chafee signed an executive order Thursday officially launching the new site. He said it follows through on one of his campaign promises to make Rhode Island government more transparent, and he hopes it will save taxpayer money by - over time - reducing the number of public records requests that state employees have to deal with.
   "Just go online, make it easier and save taxpayer dollars by not having these state employees shuffle through the bureaucracy to answer these requests," Chafee said. "That's what we should be doing, making it easy."
Read more of this NEFAC Blog post
   We welcome contributions to The NEFAC Report from journalists, lawyers, adademics or other advocates of government transparency.
   If you have something to add to the conversation, please let me know. Your  stories, experiences and commentaries have broad appeal and value. - - Larry Laughlin, NEFAC Report editor. (lmlaughlin@gmail.com).