TRANSPARENCY TUESDAY: Taking stock of where legislatures broadened — and narrowed — public access laws in 2013

Summertime means most state legislatures have called it quits for the year, which means it's timely to assess where the public's right of access to meetings and records has advanced and where it has declined.Here are a few examples of newly enacted changes in state open-government laws that journalists should be aware of.

TRANSPARENCY TUESDAY: A century-old murder mystery provokes a modern legal battle over access to medical records

A century ago, a crusading Connecticut newspaper editor helped bring to justice the murderous owner of an old-age home, relying on death certificates that showed boarders at the facility had a suspicious habit of dying from poison.The story of Amy Archer Gilligan -- who died in a state mental hospital in 1962, having been incarcerated 43 years for murder -- inspired the (exceedingly) dark comedy play and film, "Arsenic and Old Lace."And now, it has inspired something more: A sensible ruling that harmonizes state freedom-of-information law with federal health-care privacy law.Privacy laws are widely mis-cited to obstruct journalists' access to public records, and none more flagrantly so than HIPAA, the federal health care privacy statute.

TRANSPARENCY TUESDAY: “Privatized” government functions are putting the public’s records behind corporate barricades

Records created, held or used by state agencies are (with limited exceptions) supposed to be readily available for the public to inspect, and that includes the records of public schools and colleges.

TRANSPARENCY TUESDAY: It’s easier than ever to find out what private colleges, foundations and athletic associations are spending

The way that the IRS regulates nonprofit organizations is much in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. These headlines are a reminder that any nonprofit organization -- including a private college -- must make extensive disclosures to the IRS that are a matter of public record.A must-have document for anyone doing research on a private university, or the privately incorporated arm of a public university such as a foundation,  is the annual IRS Form 990.

TRANSPARENCY TUESDAY: Campus surveillance enters the drone zone

Aided by technological advances, government agencies are constantly inventing new ways to collect information -- and it was only a matter of time before "drone surveillance" made it way onto college campuses.Last week's announcement that the University of Alabama-Huntsville had acquired a fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles with an eye toward equipping them with police security cameras undoubtedly sent a shiver through public urinators and weed cultivators everywhere.