Cheers to better data access
Having trouble getting public information from local or state government?
Don't despair. Beginning July 1, persons in a dispute over data with a state agency or local unit of government can seek fast-track handling of that matter with the Office of Administrative Hearings.
You can thank Minnesota legislators, who enacted an amendment to the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act, establishing this new process.
It's designed to punish government entities that willfully disregard legitimate requests under the state's data practices act.
And it also protects government against frivolous or harassing data requests.
It does this by requiring a $1,000 filing fee or bond (all except $50 of which will be refunded if the request is legitimate).
The offending government body will have to pay up to $1,000 if it is found to be in obvious violation of the law.
As an added incentive to both sides, attorney fees up to $5,000 will be awarded to the winning party on either side, if the other party is found to be acting in bad faith.
Any complaint filed under the new process must be handled according to strict timelines for assessing probable cause, conducting a hearing, and issuing the administrative law judge decision.
The judge's decision is also the final agency decision under the law, although it can be appealed to the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
If your agency or local unit of government receives a notice of complaint under the process, the deadline for a response is 15 business days after notification.
Filing a response is important, as it allows the administrative law judge the opportunity to fully assess whether there is probable cause to believe that the law has been violated.
Where that probable cause is lacking, the case will be dismissed, reducing the litigation burden on all parties.
Jeers to the Gainesville, Fla., church that plans to protest Islam with a bonfire of Qurans on Sept. 11.
The idea is bad on so many levels it's hard to know where to begin, but it's especially unfortunate that it plays into the hands of extremists, who will have a propaganda field day with the film footage, and will needlessly endanger U.S. troops and aid workers overseas.
The Muslim world needs to realize it doesn't have to react to misguided, hateful people: Just ignore them.
We're not sure what the small Florida church (there are only 50 members) hopes to gain by the bonfire, but the pastor there should take a lesson from the Bible and work a little harder on loving his neighbors.