By Bob Katzen 


   House 154-0, Senate 40-0, approved a new law designed to ensure that the state and local municipalities comply in a timely way with requests for public records. It also reduces costs to people making the requests.


   This new law requires each state agency and municipality to appoint at least one public records access officer to serve as the point of contact for all public records requests; limits to $25 per hour the fees municipalities and state agencies can charge for time spent responding to requests; allows municipalities to request additional time for compliance and the right to charge higher fees to cover reasonable costs; enables courts to award attorneys’ fees when government agencies wrongly deny access to public records; and requires agencies and municipalities to make documents available in electronic form.

   Supporters said this is the first update to the state’s public records laws in 40 years and noted that it makes state and local government more transparent. They argued it is not acceptable for members of the news media or for ordinary citizens to face unreasonable delays and high costs to gain access to information that is supposed to be public. They argued that the new law balances access to public records with protection for local municipalities from unreasonable procedures and unfunded mandates.

   (A “Yes” vote is for the new law.)

 Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Denise Provost Yes Rep. Timothy Toomey Yes Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes                                    

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