Fighting for Open Government as the Legislative Session Begins Feb. 5

By President Mike Savino of the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information

With a new legislative session comes yet another fight for a more open and transparent government. The Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information, the 65-year-old advocacy group representing the interests of news media outlets and the public, is ready for that fight.

We’ve spent the summer and autumn months preparing to go on the offensive when the legislature returns on Feb. 5. With the assistance of CCFOI lobbyist Elizabeth M. Gemski of Murtha Cullina, we’ve been meeting with legislative leaders in an effort to get a headstart on the 2020 session. Among CCFOI’s priorities are ending the FOI exemption for the Dalio Philanthropies’ Partnership for Connecticut and stopping state employee unions from circumventing disclosure laws through contract negotiations.

We’re also talking with allies about the best way to reopen juvenile cases to the public when they are transferred to adult court and are backing efforts by State Rep. Mike Winkler to permit the free copying of municipal records via cellphone, camera or portable scanning devices. In addition, we will seek to have funds restored to the FOI Commission’s budget, funds that were improperly taken away.

At the same time, we must stand ready for any efforts to chip away at existing transparency laws. We know this will be coming. Last session, we were able to defeat legislation that would have limited access to voter registration data and a proposal to exempt evidence seized by police. The latter bill stemmed from the Hartford Courant’s successful efforts to obtain and publish records state police seized while investigating the Sandy Hook shooting.

We expect both of those bills to resurface as well as similarly terrible legislation that would erode the FOI Act. CCFOI has been leading the fight for an open government and free press since 1955, and we don’t intend to stop now.

We look forward to fighting again on your behalf.