By Allison Bowmer, Intake & Outreach Coordinator
"The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty" - James Madison, Founding Father and 4th President of the United States
This year, Sunday, March 13th through Saturday, March 19th, marks the eleventh anniversary of Sunshine Week. Sunshine Week is a national initiative to promote public education concerning freedom of information and encourage civic participation in open government. In commemoration of James Madison's birthday on March 16th, Sunshine Week is celebrated mid-March of every year.
Sunshine Week was first launched in March of 2005 by the American Society of News Editors in response to the attempts of multiple state governments across the nation to create exemptions and barriers to obtaining public records. Through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Nevada Public Records Law, members of the public have the right to request records from federal or state government agencies to obtain information on the matters that most concern them. Since its implementation Sunshine Week continues to successfully promote public awareness concerning government transparency; however, in Nevada we still have a long way to go before government transparency is not just idealized but realized.
While many government agencies in Nevada have some restrictions to obtaining public records that concern what may be considered as privileged or confidential information, the Nevada Legislative Counsel Bureau has gone beyond what is generally implied by this restriction. Due to the passage of AB 496 during the final hours of the 78th (2015) legislative session, the Nevada Legislative Counsel has created exemptions to the Nevada Public Records Law barring members of the public from seeking out records in “oral, written, audio, visual, digital or electronic form … without limitation, [and] any communications, information, answers, advice, opinions, recommendations, drafts, documents, records, questions, inquiries or requests in any such form” that are made to the Nevada Legislature. As reported by the Associated Press, this new law creates strong barriers against achieving government transparency in Nevada because members of the public will remain unaware of the many reasons why legislative bills are approved or denied when these issues are decided upon behind closed doors and fall outside of the archived meeting videos and the legislative bill texts that are generally posted to the Nevada State Legislature website.
As stated in our values, "The ACLU fights for principles of open government, and works to ensure that citizens are able to monitor the operation of government and the deliberations of government officials." We encourage our members and the community at-large to get involved in Sunshine Week and seek out information that can lead to not only the improvement of Nevada state entities, but the empowerment of all people in Nevada. Meanwhile the ACLU of Nevada will keep our sights on advancing and promoting government transparency for many Sunshine Weeks to come.
For more information about Nevada's open government policies or to create a public records request, please visit:
If you have been denied access to government records that you feel should be available under Nevada's Public Records Law or if you are aware of violations of this law, we welcome you to submit a complaint to the ACLU of Nevada through our website at www.aclunv.org/complaint. Understand that we cannot guarantee that we will accept your case; to protect your rights, please consult with an attorney.