The public records statutes in Nebraska employ the same basic format as the federal Freedom of Information Act, although the substance and some of the procedural mechanisms differ significantly. In other words, the Nebraska public records statutes begin with the presumption that all records belonging to the government are available for public inspection and copying, and then except out certain categories of records that need not be produced by government.
While access to government records in Nebraska is relatively straightforward, the reader should be aware that mere consultation of the specific statutes dealing with record access may be insufficient to resolve any given access question. The statute defining the basic public record framework excepts from public inspection particular information or records that other statutes make confidential. These statutory exceptions are not contained solely in the public records statutes, and are in fact scattered throughout the Nebraska Revised Statutes. No attempt has been made to address every conceivable record that might not be available to the public in this outline. Exceptions creating the most serious and frequent problems are addressed in detail, however, and all exceptions expressly contained in the public records statutes themselves are addressed.
The Nebraska Public Meetings Law, Neb. Rev. Stat. §§ 84-1408 to 84-1414 (Reissue 1999 and Cum. Supp. 2004), was initially enacted in 1975. In enacting the Public Meetings Law, the Nebraska Legislature expressed its intent "that the formation of public policy is public business and may not be conducted in secret." Neb. Rev. Stat. § 84-1408 (Cum. Supp. 2004). This "statutory commitment to openness in government" guarantees that "there will be development and maintenance of confidence, as well as participation, in our form of government as a democracy." Grein v. Board of Education, 216 Neb. 158, 163, 343 N.W.2d 718, 722 (1984).