March 14, 2007

Sunshine Week: The Sun Session

This article was originally published in The Campus Ledger Feb. 8

Photo courtesy of the National Archives
President Richard Nixon meets with Elvis Presley in the Oval Office, Dec. 21, 1970. According to the National Archives, this photo is its most requested document. To find out what documents you can request from the National Archives visit http://www.archives.gov.

Accessing open records on campus

by Miguel M. Morales

How much will the new president get paid?
Where do tuition dollars go?
What documents can be requested from the college?
To answer these questions, The Campus Ledger will embark on a semester-long series examining state and federal open records acts.
As a Freedom of Information/Open Records primer the history of the Federal and Kansas Laws.

FOIA

In 1966, Donald Rumsfeld, then a young republican congressman from Illinois, co-sponsored the bill that became Freedom of Information Act.
President Lyndon Johnson signed FOIA into law that year. However, the very law Johnson signed into existence allows the public to read his signed objection to the law.
“Officials with in the government must be able to communicate with one another fully and frankly without publicity,” Johnson wrote.
The law initially did not provide penalties for violation, time limits for compliance or limit how much the government could charge for the information requested said Tom Blanton, director of the National Security Archive at George Washington University.
A burglary at the Watergate hotel changed all that.
“You had this whole wave of scandals about abuse of power; you had an outcry from the American people and in the congress,” said Blanton.
In 1974, Congress overwhelmingly passed changes strengthening FOIA, Blanton said.
However believing he faced a threat to presidential powers, Gerald Ford vetoed the changes.
Congress overrode the veto.

KORA/KOMA

Kansas has two open records laws, Kansas Open Records Act (KORA) and Kansas Open Meetings Act (KOMA).
K.S.A. 45-201, enacted in 1957 addressed open records in Kansas until KORA was introduced in 1979 and became law in 1984.
According to The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, an organization working to ensure press freedom, the delay in adopting the KORA came from a debate on abortion records.
Since it was enacted, 47 provisions have been added to KORA.
Legislators introduced Kansas’ first open meetings statute in 1972, which became law in 1975. Unlike KORA, there have been few changes to the open meetings law.
Ordinarily, the Kansas Attorney General interprets both laws.

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