The week of March 11 is recognized as Sunshine Week by the newspaper industry and the S.C. Press Association. It's also a good time for local elected leaders to highlight their own open government and transparency efforts.
The special section in the March issue of Uptown focuses on open government with feature stories spotlighting changes to the Freedom of Information Act, streaming council meetings and public access to digital records.
Cities of all sizes are working hard to increase access to public meetings and public records. Streaming of public meetings and digitizing of public records are
becoming increasingly common - and much less expensive to produce. Uptown articles spotlight cities that are taking the lead to make sure their residents have
easy access to their city government activities.
Legislation that passed in 2017 made substantial changes to the Freedom of Information Act. Changes addressed digital records, charges for copies, updating timing requirements, and the option for cities to seek court guidance on unduly broad or repetitive requests.
Another aspect of the 2017 FOIA legislation is changes to the Family Privacy Protection Act. Previously, it was
illegal for an individual to get from a state agency any personal information that would be used for commercial solicitation. But now,
the law expands that offense to include local governments. That means municipalities must not only provide notice of
the prohibition to requesting parties but must also take steps to ensure
that no individual or entity "obtains or distributes" this information
for commercial solicitation. Read the article to learn more about what cities can do to protect residents' privacy.