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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.


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We welcome contributions 
to the NEFAC Report from journalists, lawyers, academics 
or other advocates of 
government transparency. If 
you have something to add 
to the conversation, please let 
us know. Your stories, experiences and commentaries have broad appeal and value.
Submissions can be emailed to: [email protected]


"Without some information about 
what railroads are actually doing, how 
can the public judge whether regulations 
are protective of 
human health and 
the environment? 
Ultimately, this type 
of thing undermines people's confidence 
in government."

NEFAC's Sigmund Schutz, an attorney at PretiFlaherty in Portland, Maine, discussing the need for more transparency among railroad carriers of hazardous waste.

Source: Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting 2.10.16

"We have . . . 
concerns that could infringe on 
a person's First Amendment rights. 
If you leave 
it up to the
 towns as 
to who they'd like to live 
there or open 
their services up to then what you've created is 
patchwork quilt."

NEFAC's Dan Barrett, an attorney at the ACLU of Connecticut, explaining the First Amendment concerns of barring sex offenders from public libraries.

Source: Connecticut Post 2.21.16

"The secretary of state's office has expanded the public records law's 'personal privacy' exemption 
to a ridiculous extreme. The video 
in question shows a public figure walking through the most public of spaces -
the parking lot of a municipal police station."

"The privacy 
exemption is 
intended to protect against the disclosure of intimate details of 
a highly personal nature, where there 
is an insufficient countervailing public interest. The supervisor seems to equate it 
with embarrassment. That is a troubling interpretation of our already weak Public Records Law."

NEFAC's Robert Bertsche, an attorney at Prince Lobel Tye in Boston, addressing a decision that allows law enforcement to withhold video showing an encounter with Chandler Jones of the New England Patriots.

Sources: The Boston Globe 2.24.16, Commonwealth Magazine 2.23.16

"For every story you tackle, there are nine stories on the wait list. We could have 10 Spotlight teams. If a few young people decide to make journalism a career because of this film, that's good. 
The pay is horrible, but it's just a hell of a lot of fun."

NEFAC's Walter V. Robinson discussing the movie "Spotlight," based on his investigative team's Pulitizer Prize-winning reporting for The Boston Globe, and the need for more watchdog journalism.

Source: Vineyard Gazette 2.11.16

"It is a true 
monument to 
democracy. If you're elected to a public school board, that's really only when the board meets or if you are on an assignment from the board, otherwise you aren't 
a member. Consider 
your congressman 
or congresswoman, elected to represent you, but not representing you 
when he or she is just walking around the congressional district."

NEFAC's Jim Smith discussing a local school board policy that allows officials to withhold information pertaining to their actions outside official meetings.

"Our Commonwealth's primary means to ensure accountability 
is becoming more and more elusive. With 
the Senate's help, 
that can change. The momentum we have today has been building for 43 years. We need to make 
the most of the opportunity. There's 
no guarantee we'll 
get another.

Justin Silverman, 
NEFAC's executive director, encouraging the Mass. Senate earlier this month to pass strong public records reform legislation.

 NEFAC REPORT | February 2016

New England First Amendment Awards 2016
NEFAC Honors Sen. Patrick Leahy With
Stephen Hamblett First Amendment Award
Annual Freedom of Information Award to Be Named After
Michael Donoghue, Retired Burlington Free Press Reporter
As part of its annual luncheon, NEFAC honored U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy with its Stephen Hamblett First Amendment Award. Jenifer McKim of the New England Center for Investigative Reporting received the coalition's Freedom of Information Award. Michael A. Champa received the Antonia Orfield Citizenship Award. The coalition also announced during the luncheon that its annual Freedom of Information Award will be named after long-time NEFAC board member, Michael Donoghue, who recently retired from the Burlington Free Press after more than 40 years in its newsroom. [More]

      About NEFAA2016
    - Speaker Bios

Additional Coverage of NEFAA2016

NEFAC, Journalism Groups Continue to Push Federal Agencies for Better Policies 
An alliance of more than 50 journalism and open government advocacy organizations, including the New England First Amendment Coalition, continues to push for more transparency within the federal government. 
Several journalists and attorneys representing the alliance met with White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest late last year to voice concerns about policies within federal agencies that impede access to information such as blocking reporters' requests for interviews and excessive delays in answering interview requests.
In Battle for Information About Maine Railroads and Hazardous Materials, Commercial Interests Winning 
In Maine, the Legislature's Judiciary Committee reviews any proposed exemption to the state's Freedom of Access Act. You'd like to think that after 459 exemptions in the law's 40-year history, the committee would - at the very least - have the process down cold. Sadly, you'd be wrong. [More]
Now is Time to Reform Public Records Law; Senate Needs to Make Most of Opportunity 
The Massachusetts Senate released a bill earlier this month that could help fix our broken public records law. While the legislation (S.2120) is much stronger than the lackluster proposal by the House last year, the Senate needs to now decide the fate of the many proposed amendments that could drastically affect the future of open government in the Commonwealth. [More] [Additional Coverage]
Conn. FOI Ruling Should Challenge 
School Board That 'Does Not Exist' 
Go ahead, read it again. It is a true monument to democracy. If you're elected to a public school board, that's really only when the board meets or if you are on an assignment from the board, otherwise you aren't a member. Consider your congressman or congresswoman, elected to represent you, but not representing you when he or she is just walking around the congressional district. The first thing our FOI commission must do is strike down that absurd section of Norwalk's school board bylaws. [More]
Other FOI and First Amendment News

            Police Body Cam Policies
            Donald Trump, Libel Law
            'Second Chance' Legislation, Privacy

            PublicRecsPublic Records Reform
            Chandler Jones, Police Records
            Easthampton Mayor, Public Record Violations
    New Hampshire 

            HB 1611, Fees for Public Records

            Bellows Falls, Public Records