Maine Sunshine Award awarded to Sen. David R. Hastings III

For Immediate Release
March 16, 2010

Contact : Mal Leary, President MFOIC
[email protected]

( AUGUSTA) — The Maine Freedom of Information Coalition, a broad based group of individuals and organizations advocating for open government, is pleased to announce that its third annual Maine Sunshine Award is awarded to Sen. David R. Hastings III for his steadfast support of open government.

“Senator Hastings has been the go-to member of the legislature’s Judiciary Committee as they review proposed exceptions to the state’s public records and open meetings laws,” said Mal Leary, President of the MFOIC. “He has kept the committee on track as they review proposals to make sure exceptions are as narrowly crafted as possible and that the public’s right to know is protected.”

The award was presented to Hastings at a State House news conference.
In addition to his work on the Judiciary Committee implementing the review process, the MFOIC cited the legislation Hastings sponsored and successfully got enacted into law that allows a judge to award legal fees in cases where government agencies are found to deliberately violate the state right to know laws.

“As an attorney, Sen. Hastings understands how reluctant some people can be to assert their rights because they cannot afford the legal costs associated with a civil case,” said MFOIC Vice President Judy Meyer. “His diligence in pursuing some financial relief for people who have been denied access to public records or meetings provides a fair and meaningful process for Mainers to assert their right to know.”

The MFOIC Sunshine Award is intended to honor citizens, journalists, media organizations, or community groups that have, during the past year, championed, protected, and promoted public access to government meetings, public records, and court proceedings, or otherwise promoted the public’s right to know and to publish, broadcast, and speak freely about issues of public concern.

March 14-20 is national Freedom of Information Week. By proclamation of Gov. John Baldacci, it is also Sunshine Week in the State of Maine.

The nationwide observance of FOI Day on March 16 commemorates the birth date of President James Madison, a st rong advocate of the public’s right and duty to know what its government is doing.

The Maine Freedom of Information Coalition is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation representing individuals and organizations committed to open access to public information in print, elect ronic and digital formats. The Coalition involves media representatives, attorneys, librarians, state and local government officials, educators and others who care about transparency in government, information access and the role of an informed citizenry in a democracy.


Maine 39th among 50 states for access to public records

From insurance plans to hospitals’ reports, Maine lags in providing easy access, especially online.

By DIETER BRADBURY, Portland Press Herald
March 15, 2009

As health care costs continue to rise, Joe Ditre keeps hearing that people need to be smart shoppers when they choose insurance policies, doctors and hospitals.

But as the director of Consumers for Affordable Health Care, a coalition of nonprofit consumer advocacy groups in Maine, Ditre believes that’s easier said than done.

He said the state offers little online information to help the public compare insurance plans, charges for medical procedures or the quality of service among doctors or hospitals.

“The reality is that you can’t find this information,” Ditre said.

A new study of online access to state government information finds that Maine does a relatively poor job of making public information easily available through the Internet.

The study, based on a national survey conducted by newspaper and broadcast journalists, state press associations and other journalism groups, ranked Maine 39th among the 50 states in providing access to 20 kinds of public records.

The survey was released in connection with Sunshine Week, an annual nationwide effort by journalism groups to draw attention to the public’s right to know.

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