Whether federal, state or local, government officials not only promoted open government ideals, they also enacted them. In fact, there may have done more this year to introduce open government measures during Sunshine Week than any previous year.
From federal legislation to reform the Freedom of Information Act, to the county registrar of deeds opening up sealed historic records, Sunshine Week shined on the halls of government.
“In the spirit of Sunshine Week, the White House will highlight one initiative a day which demonstrates the Obama Administration’s continued commitment to open and accessible government,” explained the first White House blog post, “Sunshine Week: In Celebration of Open Government.” Subsequent posts by administration officials included: “Sunshine Week: All Hands on Deck for Open Data“; “Sunshine Week: In Celebration of Civic Engagement“; “Sunshine Week: In Celebration of Transparency“; and “Sunshine Week: Increasing Access to Publicly Funded Research.”
Several Executive Branch agencies also marked the week with special programs and conferences. They included:
- National Archives and Records Administration and its Office of Government Information Services and Public Interest Declassification Board. NARA put on display of the original Freedom of Information Act (pictured), at an event that included remarks from Archivist of the United States David Ferriero and Miriam Nisbet, director of the Office of Government Information Services. The event also featured a demonstration of the multi-agency online FOIA portal. Ferriero also sent a memo to NARA employees about the importance of FOIA, and OGIS also released its annual report during Sunshine Week and participated in several events. Also at Archives, chair of the Public Interest Declassification Board, Nancy Soderberg, blogged about recommendations for updating the current classification and declassification process.
- Department of Justice. The Justice Department kicked off Sunshine Week with a discussion and review of agency FOIA improvements, led by Office of Information Policy Director Melanie Ann Pustay, who also participated in other Sunshine Week panels around Washington during the week. OIP also convened a special meeting of its FOIA IT Working Group to discuss how agencies can use technology to improve government transparency.
- State Department. On its website, the State Department noted the importance of Sunshine Week, linking back to the White House’s week of blog posts. The item was tweeted by the accounts of ambassadors, consuls, embassies and missions around the world, including: Belgium, Finland, Guinea, Haiti, India, Kuwait, Nepal, Nigeria, the Philippines, Portugal, Turkey, Uganda, and the U.K.
On Capitol Hill, in perhaps one of the few remaining truly bipartisan efforts, Sunshine Week hearings were held in both the Senate and House, which also saw the introduction of FOIA reform legislation. The Congressional Transparency Caucus also held a panel discussion to discuss open government issues.
At an FOI forum hosted by the Collaboration on Government Secrecy at American University’s Washington College of Law, Capitol Hill staff talked about the importance of Sunshine Week as a rally point to hold hearings and introduce legislation.
As one aide noted, “Sunshine Week is one of the most exciting, but also most exhausting weeks for the open-government community.” Another stated, “It’s good that we have Sunshine Week, because you’re pretty much guaranteed to have a hearing.”
- The House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform held a hearing titled, Addressing Transparency in the Federal Bureaucracy: Moving Toward A More Open Government. In conjunction with the hearing, Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) (pictured) and Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) introduced the FOIA Oversight and Implementation Act. Among other things, the bill moves the deadline for agencies to file their annual FOIA reports from April 1 to March 1 so the data can be discussed during future Sunshine Weeks.
- Just a little later that morning, the Senate Judiciary Committee, held its annual Sunshine Week hearing, “TIME CHANGE: We the People: Fulfilling the Promise of Open Government Five Years After The OPEN Government Act.” Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) (pictured) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), longtime co-sponsors of open government legislation, were among those in attendance.
State and Local:
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