Open public record and meeting statutes, sunshine laws, freedom of information act are just a few ways to describe the same thing, the right to request and obtain copies from the government. Although the federal government was not the first to face transparency issues, when the federal freedom of information act passed, many states modeled their laws after the federal government's.
As states pass their own public records and open meetings laws, some are more favorable toward transparency and others privacy. However, these statutes are amended to meet new technologies for methods of obtaining information. An example of this scenario is when there were debate regarding government employee emails and whether this type of information is subject to disclosure.
Statutes are now better in tune with technology. There have been many statutes passed in recent years to better serve the public’s need, specially when there’s an investigation into a government department. The California Public Records Act (CPRA) was passed 1968 by the state's voters and more recently proposition 59 in 2004. Groups, organizations and concerned citizens feel that open records promotes government accountability. These laws have many agencies appointing a public information officer in charge of requests.
When requestors believe that the agency is in violation of public record laws, they go to court. Many of these cases set a precedence for related upcoming issues. There are many gray areas, but the public information officers role is not to determine whether or not open records laws apply.
Here are a few organizations: National Freedom of Information Coalition, First Amendment Coalition in San Rafael, Californians Aware in Carmichael, CA, First Amendment Project.