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Friday wrap up - March 18, 2016

Legislation is moving

Maryland has taken initial steps to strengthen transparency in the state and protect student journalists.  The Press Association has been working on four initiatives in Maryland this session:  public notice, anti-SLAPP, open meetings and student press freedoms.  Details of our policy positions are found on the advocacy section of our website. 

Bills to eliminate government notices in printed newspapers failed in committee.  This past week, an open meetings bill (HB823), focusing on expanding training and capturing more complete records of individuals who have been trained in Open Meetings procedures, passed out of the House Health and Government Operations committee.  The bill to strengthen the anti-SLAPP law in Maryland (HB263) passed out of the House Judiciary committee with weakening amendments and is scheduled for a Senate hearing on 3/29.  Finally, the “New Voices” bill, SB 764, which would roll back the Supreme Court’s Hazelwood ruling for students, passed the Senate floor with one amendment.  The Association and other advocates worked on a compromise solution with the Public Information Act for body camera footage. This issue is important to our members’ ability to report newsworthy events while balancing discretion towards survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.  MDDC took no position on HB947/SB930 and the bills have not yet been voted on in committee. Maryland's deadline for bills to cross over into the opposing chamber is March 21st.  The Association’s Government Affairs committee monitors legislation in Maryland, Delaware and DC. 

Sunshine Week brings light to government

Many members participated in Sunshine Week with original reporting and / or running the Press Association and Common Cause MD op-ed.  MDDC provided members with links to the Sunshine Week toolkit prepared by ASNE and the Reporter's Committee for Freedom of the Press as well as penned a special op-ed for member use.  We’ve collected links to members’ Sunshine reporting under the FOIA/PIA section of our website.  (Send your links to Rebecca Snyder for inclusion!)  In addition to Sunshine Week articles, you can find useful resources on navigating open government requests and press clips in Maryland and Delaware (DC will debut shortly). 

PIA Ombudsman begins work April 1

Lisa A. Kershner will be Maryland’s first PIA Ombudsman.  An attorney currently in private practice in Baltimore, Ms. Kershner will act as an informal mediator in disputes between requesters and custodians.  The Ombudsman office, although housed and staffed by the Attorney General’s office, is an independent role.  The Association, in concert with Marylanders for Open Government, Maryland Municipal League and the Maryland Association of Counties, will host a free, public conference call April 20th to provide Ms. Kershner with an opportunity to discuss her plans for the office and take questions.  The Association’s FOIA/PIA committee also plans to host an in-person meeting specifically for journalists with Ms. Kershner later in the spring.

Coming up next week

Next Friday, look for our special announcement of winners for the Editorial Contest, here in the Friday Planner.  In addition, we are preparing our Editorial Awards publication, which will feature expanded profiles of each of our members and will be distributed to members, legislators, and media buyers across the region.  This is a popular feature that we first debuted with last fall's Advertising Awards publication. 

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