Jamestown News: Sunshine Laws: Giving the public the right to know

From the Jamestown News (3/14/12): If you want to find out how much the town manager makes or the crime statistics for the past week, you can thank the Sunshine Laws and Freedom of Information Act for being able to get the answers.

March 11-17 is Sunshine Week, a national initiative created in 2005 to promote a dialogue and increase public awareness about the importance of open government and freedom of information. It’s about the public’s right to know what its government is doing and why.

While the United States Constitution does not include a clause about the right of public access to meetings and documents, this access has been written into many state constitutions. In lieu of a constitutional ruling, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in 1966. Thirty years later, it was amended to include records stored in electronic form.

FOIA gives the public the ability to attend open meetings. Governmental bodies must publish public notices about these meetings. It also requires governments to allow the public to view or receive copies of meeting minutes, records and reports, with a few exceptions.

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