RTKNH receives First Amendment Award

We couldn’t be more proud.  On Thursday night, October 5, 2017, the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications awarded Right to Know NH its First Amendment Award. The award is given annually by the school to those who have “gone above and beyond to uphold” First Amendment Freedoms.

1sr amendment award group

RTKNH, including founding members and officers Harriet Cady, David Saad and David Taylor were honored at a gala at the Palace Theatre in Manchester for its work in advancing the public’s right to know in New Hampshire.

A 5 minute video about RTKNH was shown at the award ceremony followed by a speech by David Saad,  RTKNH president.

The keynote speaker was Garrison Keillor, creator and star of “A Prairie Home Companion” radio show, who spoke of everyday threats to our First Amendment rights, not least of which is our own indifference and reluctance to act.

Since it began in 2013, Right to Know NH has been devoted to strengthening the Right to Know law in New Hampshire.  Through legislative action, education outreach and mentoring citizens in obtaining public information, the grass roots organization has grown to become a notable advocate for open government in the state.

We are honored to be recognized by the Nackey S. Loeb School and are delighted that attorney and First Amendment specialist, Greg Sullivan, was also recognized with the school’s Pen and Quill award.

The Nackey  S. Loeb School of Communications’ mission is to “promote understanding and appreciation of the First Amendment and to foster interest, integrity and excellence in journalism and communication.”

Articles by the Union Leader and Concord Monitor provide more information.

 

Advertisements

Training on RTK law now available

Right to Know New Hampshire (RTKNH) has put together a presentation on the Right-to-Know law.  This is a comprehensive review of the Right-to-Know law and covers governmental records, minutes, public and nonpublic meetings, and violations.

RTKNH is available to provide a right to know training class to your group.  The training class includes our presentation on the Right-to-Know Law.  To schedule our training class for your organization or citizen’s group, contact us.  To contact us, please click ‘Send us a message’ on the right side of this page.

Additional training materials can be found on our blog under the Training menu option.

N.H. Senate Hearing on SB555 on RTK Ombudsman on January 23 at 10:15

Senate Bill 555 to establish an ombudsman under the Right-to-Know Law has been introduced in the N.H. Senate and assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee. This bill is sponsored by Sen. Bob Giuda (R), Sen. Martha Fuller Clark (D), Rep. Jordan Ulery (r), Sen. Sharon Carson (R), Sen. William Gannon (R), Sen. Daniel Innis (R), Sen. Harold French (R), Rep. Gary Hopper (R), and Rep. Charlotte DiLorenzo (D). RTKNH supports this bill that was the result of last year’s RTK study commission.

SB555 is scheduled for a hearing by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, January 23, 2018 at 10:15 a.m. in room 100 of the State House in Concord, N.H. The public is encouraged to attend and testify in favor of this bill.

This bill adds 3 new provisions to RSA 91-A:7 and then adds several new sections starting with RSA 91-A:7-a. The bill modifies RSA 91-A:7 to read as follows:

I. Any person aggrieved by a violation of this chapter may petition the superior court for injunctive relief. In order to satisfy the purposes of this chapter, the courts shall give proceedings under this chapter high priority on the court calendar. Such a petitioner may appear with or without counsel. The petition shall be deemed sufficient if it states facts constituting a violation of this chapter, and may be filed by the petitioner or his or her counsel with the clerk of court or any justice thereof. Thereupon the clerk of court or any justice shall order service by copy of the petition on the person or persons charged. When any justice shall find that time probably is of the essence, he or she may order notice by any reasonable means, and he or she shall have authority to issue an order ex parte when he or she shall reasonably deem such an order necessary to insure compliance with the provisions of this chapter.

II. In lieu of the procedure under paragraph I, an aggrieved person may file a complaint with the ombudsman under RSA 91-A:7-b and in accordance with RSA 91-A:7-c.

III. A person’s decision to petition the superior court forecloses the ability to file a complaint with the ombudsman pursuant to RSA 91-A:7-c.

IV. A person’s decision to file a complaint with the ombudsman forecloses the ability to petition the superior court until the ombudsman issues a final ruling or the deadline for such a ruling has passed.

The bill then adds these new sections after RSA 91-A:7:

91-A:7-a Citizens’ Right-to-Know Appeals Commission Established. There is established a commission to manage and oversee an alternative right-to-know complaint resolution process.

I. The members of the commission shall be as follows:

(a) One member of the senate, appointed by the president of the senate.

(b) Two members of the house of representatives, appointed by the speaker of the house of representatives.

(c) The attorney general, or designee.

(d) A member, appointed by the chief justice of the supreme court.

(e) The secretary of state, or designee.

(f) A representative of Right to Know NH, appointed by that organization.

(g) Ten citizen members, one from each county, no more than 4 of whom shall be current, local, county, state or federal employees or currently serving in any elected or appointed capacity with any political subdivision, public agency or public institution; and 10 alternate members, one from each county, no more than 4 of whom shall be current local, county, state, or federal employees or currently serving in any elected or appointed capacity with any political subdivision public agency or public institution; all appointed by the governor with advice and consent of the council.

II. The members of the commission shall serve without compensation, but shall be reimbursed for necessary travel and other necessary expenses. Legislative members shall receive mileage at the legislative rate when attending to the duties of the commission.

III. Legislative members of the commission shall serve a term coterminous with their term in office. The members appointed under subparagraph I(g) shall serve for a term of 3 years, except that the initial appointment of such members shall be for staggered terms of one, 2, and 3 years. No member shall serve more than 3 consecutive terms. No member under subparagraph I(g) shall be a current lobbyist or an attorney for any entity subject to this chapter, or an attorney for any organization representing the interests of such entity. Nor shall any such member be employed by any such lobbyist or attorney. The member appointed under subparagraph I(d) shall recuse himself or herself from any court proceedings involving appeals under this chapter. The members appointed under subparagraphs I (c)-(f) shall be advisory only members who shall advise the voting members on questions of law and existing policy governing RSA 91-A.

IV. The commission shall:

(a) Establish rules of procedure to accomplish the mission of the commission to make resolution of complaints under this chapter fast, easy, and inexpensive.

(b) Recruit, screen, and select ombudsman candidates, who shall serve at the will of the commission.

(c) Appoint an ombudsman and evaluate the ombudsman’s performance on a periodic basis, at least annually.

(d) Make recommendations to the legislature concerning proposed changes to this chapter.

(e) Create, and update annually, educational materials relative to this chapter.

V. The members of the commission shall elect a chairperson and a vice chairperson annually from among the voting members. The first meeting of the commission shall be called by the senate member. The first meeting of the commission shall be held within 45 days of the effective date of this section. Seven voting members of the commission shall constitute a quorum.

VI. The commission shall be administratively attached to the department of state.

VII. Beginning November 1, 2019, and each November 1 thereafter, the commission shall submit an annual report of its findings and any recommendations for proposed legislation to the president of the senate, the speaker of the house of representatives, and the governor. The report shall also include the total number of complaints received, the number of complaints received concerning public records and public meetings, the number of complaints received concerning state and county agencies, municipalities, school administrative units, and other public entities, the number of complaints in which a ruling was rendered by the ombudsman, the number of violations of each provision of this chapter found by the ombudsman, and the number of ombudsman rulings that were appealed to the superior court, including whether the appeal was from a complainant or a public agency or official, and whether the ombudsman’s ruling was sustained before the superior court.

91-A:7-b Office Established. There is hereby established the office of the right-to-know ombudsman to be administratively attached to the department of state under RSA 21-G:10. The ombudsman appointed by the commission established under RSA 91-A:7-a shall:

I. Be a member of the New Hampshire bar.

II. Have a minimum of 10 years full-time practice of law in any jurisdiction.

III. Be experienced with and knowledgeable of the provisions of this chapter, the federal Freedom of Information Act, and other states laws regarding right-to-know.

IV. Complete a minimum of 3 hours of continuing legal education courses or other training relevant to the provisions of this chapter.

91-A:7-c Complaint Process.

I. Any party aggrieved by a violation of this chapter shall have the option to either petition the superior court or file a signed, written complaint with the office of the ombudsman, established under RSA 91-A:7-b. Any signed, written complaint filed with the ombudsman shall attach, if applicable, the request served on the public agency or official and the written response of the public agency or official.

II. Once a complaint has been filed and provided by the ombudsman to the public body or public agency, the public body or public agency shall have 10 days to submit an acknowledgment of the complaint and an answer to the complaint, which shall include applicable law and a justification for any refusal to or delay in producing the requested information.

III. In reviewing complaints filed with the ombudsman, the ombudsman shall be authorized to:

(a) Compel timely delivery of records, regardless of medium, for confidential in-camera review.

(b) Compel interviews with the parties.

(c) Order attendance at hearings.

(d) Issue findings in writing to all parties.

(e) Order a public body or public agency to disclose requested records, provide access to meetings, or otherwise comply with the provisions of this chapter, subject to appeal.

(f) Make any finding and order any other remedy to the same extent as provided by the court under RSA 91-A:8.

IV. The ombudsman may draw negative inferences from a party’s failure to participate and comply with orders during the review process.

V. In implementing the provisions of this section, the ombudsman shall follow the procedures established by the commission.

VI. The ombudsman shall determine whether there have been any violations of this chapter and issue a ruling within 30 days following receipt of the parties’ submissions and, if applicable, the records following an in-camera review. This 30-day deadline may be extended to a reasonable time frame by the ombudsman for good cause. The ombudsman may also expedite resolution of the complaint upon a showing of good cause. Rulings on expedited complaints shall be issued within 10 business days, or sooner where necessary.

VII. The ombudsman shall access governmental records in camera that a public body or public agency believes are exempt in order to make a ruling concerning whether the public body or public agency shall release the records or portions thereof to the public. The ombudsman shall maintain the confidentiality of records provided to the ombudsman by a public body or public agency under this section and shall return the records to the public body or public agency when the ombudsman’s review is complete.

VIII. Nothing in this section shall affect the ability of a person to seek relief in superior court under RSA 91-A:7, I in lieu of this process.

91-A:7-d Appeal and Enforcement.

I. Any party may appeal the ombudsman’s final ruling to the superior court by filing a notice of appeal in superior court no more than 30 days after the ombudsman’s ruling is issued. The ombudsman’s ruling shall be attached to the document initiating the appeal, admitted as a full exhibit by the superior court, considered by the judge during deliberations, and specifically addressed in the court’s written order. Citizen-initiated appeals shall have no filing fee or surcharge. The public body or public agency shall pay the sheriff’s service costs if the public body or public agency, or its attorney, declines to accept service. Nothing in this section shall prevent a superior court from staying an ombudsman’s decision pending appeal to the superior court.

II. A superior court appeal of the ombudsman’s ruling shall review the ruling de novo.

III. If the ombudsman’s final ruling is not appealed, the ombudsman shall, after the deadline has passed, follow up with all parties, as required, to verify compliance with rulings issued.

IV. The ombudsman’s final rulings which are not appealed may be registered in the superior court as judgments and enforceable through contempt of court. If such action is necessary to enforce compliance, all costs and fees, including reasonable attorney fees, shall be paid by the noncompliant public body or public agency.

91-A:7-e Rulemaking. The commission, in consultation with the secretary of state, shall adopt rules pursuant to RSA 541-A relative to:

I. Establishing procedures to streamline the process of resolving complaints under this chapter.

II. Further qualifications and review of the ombudsman, established in RSA 91-A:7-b.

III. Content of educational materials under RSA 91-A:7-a.

IV. Other matters necessary to the proper administration of RSA 91-A:7-a through RSA 91-A:7-d.

The bill appropriates $48,000 for the new ombudsman.

The full text of the bill is available here.

N.H. House Hearing on HB1520 on Access to Ballots on January 23 at 10:00

House Bill 1520 to provide access to ballots under the Right-to-Know Law has been introduced in the N.H. House and assigned to the House Election Law Committee. This bill is sponsored by Rep. Ellen Read (D), Rep. Timothy Horrigan (D), Rep. James McConnell (R), Rep. Sherry Frost (D), Rep. Martin Jack (D), Rep. Ivy Vann (D), Sen. Martha Fuller Clark (D), Rep. Timothy Smith (D), and Rep. Charlotte DiLorenzo (D). RTKNH supports this bill.

HB1520 is scheduled for a hearing by the House Election Law Committee on Tuesday, January 23, 2018 at 10:00 a.m. in room 308 of the Legislative Office Building in Concord, N.H. The public is encouraged to attend and testify in favor of this bill.

Among other provisions, this bill modifies provisions to RSA 659:95, II, RSA 660:16, II, and RSA 669:33, II to remove language that prohibits access to ballots as well as add new sections to RSA 660 to define the procedure for public access to ballots. Here is the revision to RSA 659:95, II:

II. [Ballots, including cast, canceled, and uncast ballots and] Successfully challenged and rejected absentee ballots still contained in their envelopes, prepared or preserved in accordance with the election laws shall be exempt from the provisions of RSA 91-A. This exemption shall apply to [any ballots or] absentee voter affidavits prepared for or used in any election conducted by the state or any political subdivision, including federal elections.

Here is the revision to RSA 660:16, II:

II. [Ballots, including cast, canceled, and uncast ballots and] Successfully challenged absentee ballots still contained in their envelopes, prepared or preserved in accordance with the election laws shall be exempt from the provisions of RSA 91-A. This exemption shall apply to [any ballots or] absentee voter affidavit envelopes prepared for or used in any election conducted by the state or any political subdivision, including federal elections.

Here is the revision to RSA 669:33, II:

II. [Ballots, including cast, canceled, and uncast ballots and] Successfully challenged absentee ballots still contained in their envelopes, prepared or preserved in accordance with the election laws shall be exempt from the provisions of RSA 91-A. This exemption shall apply to [any ballots or] absentee voter affidavit envelopes prepared for or used in any election conducted by the state or any political subdivision, including federal elections.

Here are the new provisions added to RSA 660:

Public Review of Ballots

660:32 Statement of Purpose. The state of New Hampshire recognizes that the fundamental right to vote includes the right for voters to have their votes counted and reported accurately, as provided in Part I, Articles 1, 2, 7, 8, and 11 and Part II, Articles 5, 32, 41, and 84 of the state constitution. Therefore, the public may view cast ballots after the recount period is over to ensure accuracy of the vote count and evaluate the performance of election officials. Review of ballots shall be in a manner that is least restrictive to the public and that is efficient and least cumbersome to the ballot custodian or designee.

660:33 Custody of Ballot. Town and city clerks shall retain custody of the ballots until the retention period has ended, 22 months for all federal offices, 60 days for all other offices. In the case where custody is transferred for a recount the secretary of state shall remain the custodian until the retention period has ended.

660:34 Application and Timing of Access.

I. Review of ballots shall only be allowed after the recount period for that election has ended. Application for ballot review shall be made in writing to the custodian of the ballots, stating specific times of availability or unavailability, if applicable.

II. The ballots shall be made available for inspection in a timely manner. However, responding to applications for inspection shall not take priority over the previously scheduled work activities of the town or city clerks.

III. The custodian shall schedule the appointment within 5 business days to accommodate those wishing to review ballots and the individual supervising the review. Citizens requesting the review may recruit counters if needed.

IV. Additional appointments may be necessary to complete the review or answer new questions that may arise.

V. Towns and cities may request reimbursement of additional expenses from the secretary of state from the election fund established under RSA 5:6-d.

660:35 Supervision of Ballot Review and Box Contents.

I. It is the duty of the custodian or designee to ensure the integrity of the ballots and contents of the sealed boxes.

II. The custodian shall remove the seal from boxes in the presence of those requesting the review and those who will supervise.

III. Reviewers shall witness the identification of seals removed and new seals applied after review.

IV. Depending on the number of boxes involved and time allowed for initial review, the supervisor and reviewer may agree whether one or more boxes shall be opened at one time.

V. No person shall in any manner, nor for any reason, make any mark upon either the face or reverse side of any ballots during the counting process. All notes shall be done in pencil upon separate pieces of paper.

VI. Ballots shall not be traceable to a voter. If there is only one absentee ballot cast in a location, that ballot may be excluded from the review to maintain the confidentiality of the secret ballot. If the reviewer or supervisor witnesses any identifying marks on a ballot that would allow it to be traced to a voter, the witness shall report the violation to the moderator, who shall report it to the attorney general.

VII. Reasonable administrative regulations designed to ensure the integrity of the ballots may be established by the clerks in conjunction with the secretary of state. Such regulations, if required, shall be limited to requiring the individual seeking access to provide identification and sign his or her name, and the keeping of bags, briefcases, or other items off the table where ballots are placed.

VIII. Supervisors at the local level may include members of the board of recount, other election officials, a designated town employee, or a law enforcement official.

660:36 Right To Copy. The right to public access shall include compliance with the provisions of RSA 91-A:4, I.

660:37 Denial of Access. In extraordinary circumstances, the custodian of the ballots, after consultation with the attorney general and the secretary of state may deny access to ballots to certain individuals for good cause and give the reasons in writing. Good cause shall be limited to previous conviction for theft or fraud, or prior destruction of, defacement of, or tampering with public records. Denial of access may be appealed to the superior court, with RSA 91:A-8 remedies available if the denial was not based on good cause.

660:38 Fraud or Error. The custodian of the ballots shall request that any person reviewing ballots under this subdivision report to the state political parties and to the moderator any evidence of fraud or error in any vote count of one percent or more. The moderator shall forward any such report to the secretary of state, the attorney general, and, if applicable, local law enforcement authorities.

The full text of the bill is available here.

Senate Bill to establish an Ombudsman to resolve complaints

NEW HAMPSHIRE’S right-to-know law is meant to ensure transparency and accountability in our government, but citizens often run into roadblocks attempting to get state and local agencies to live up to the letter and intent of the law.

Currently, the right-to-know law (RSA 91-A) requires citizens to file a petition in Superior Court to resolve any right-to-know grievance they may have with a public body or agency. This requirement establishes a high burden and cost on all parties.

The Center for Public Integrity, evaluated the freedom of information laws of all 50 states as part of its 2015 State Integrity Investigation. In the Category of Public Access to Information, New Hampshire earned a grade of F, ranking 49th out of 50 states.

In the category titled “In practice, citizens can resolve appeals to access to information requests within a reasonable time period and cost,” New Hampshire received a score of 0. This low score was because all appeals of Chapter 91-A requests must go through the court system and because the law sets a high bar for the recovery of attorney fees and other costs.

Last year in House Bill 178, the Legisalture established a 13-member commission to study processes to resolve right to know complaints with the goal of reducing costs for citizens, court system, and public bodies and agencies.

The commission discussed alternative mechanisms to resolve right-to-know grievances and agreed that an “express lane” process to resolve right-to-know grievances which is easier, cheaper, and faster is needed.

After a review of the complaint resolution options used by all 50 states, the Commission recommended an Ombudsman with oversight by a Citizens’ Right-to-Know Appeals Commission which would balance the needs for an easier, cheaper, and faster grievance resolution process while maintaining independence, credibility, impartiality and minimizing any political influence.

In lieu of filing a petition in the Superior Court under RSA 91-A, the citizen will be able to file a complaint with the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman will process the complaint, acquire and review documents and conducts interviews if necessary. He will determine whether there has been a violation of RSA 91-A and issue a ruling within 30 days. The ruling can include ordering any remedy for a violation which is specified in RSA 91-A. The Commission anticipates it is likely this alternative process will result in savings to citizens, public bodies and agencies, and the court system.

Along with the Ombudsman, a Citizens’ Right to Know Appeals Commission will be established. It will hire an attorney to be the Ombudsman, evaluate the Ombudsman’s performance periodically, and create educational materials on Chapter 91-A.

The commission reviewed right-to-know education available within all 50 states and determined that education is essential to reduce the risks, costs, and time associated with resolving right-to-know grievances. Education will increase compliance with the law, thus reducing the number of right-to-know violations which will, in the long run, reduce the costs of addressing and resolving violations. The Commission recommended Right-to-know training be established for all public officials and employees who are subject to the right-to-know law to increase awareness, compliance, and minimize violations.

To maintain trust between the people and their government, the establishment of the Ombudsman and Citizens’ Right to Know Appeals Commission will be indispensable in protecting the ideal of a citizen government whereby every citizen is provided open access to government records, advance notice of meetings meant for public scrutiny, and transparency and openness of government actions.

To view the Commission’s findings click here.

Senate Bill SB 555 has been introduced by Senator Bob Giuda to implement the Ombudsman and Citizens’ Right to Know Appeals Commission.  A hearing on SB 555 is scheduled for Tuesday January 23 at 10:15 in Room SH 100.  Please contact your legislators and ask them to support this bill and make the process of resolving right to know grievances easier for all citizens.

N.H. House Hearings on RTK Bills on January 23 Starting at 10:00

The New Hampshire House Judiciary Committee will hold a day full of hearings on Right-to-Know bills on January 23, 2018 starting at 10:00 a.m. A total of 7 bills, all concerning RSA 91-A, the Right-to-Know Law, will be considered. The hearings will be in room 208 of the Legislative Office Building in Concord, N.H. The public is encouraged to attend and testify in favor of these bills.

At 10:00 a.m. is HB 1344, relative to collective bargaining under the right-to-know law. This bill requires collective bargaining negotiations to be in public. The full text of this bill is available here. This bill is sponsored by Rep. Kurt Wuelper (R), Rep. Jordan Ulery (R), and Rep. Leonard Turcotte (R).  RTKNH proposed this bill.

At 10:30 a.m. is HB 1579, requiring records to be kept for certain exempt convenings under the right-to- know law. This bill requires a minimal, after-the-fact record of certain non-meetings of public bodies. The full text of this bill is available here. This bill is sponsored by Rep. Kurt Wuelper (R), Rep. Carl Seidel (R), and Rep. Kevin Verville (R).  RTKNH proposed this bill.

At 11:00 a.m. is HB 1323, relative to employment of chief executive officers under the right-to-know law. This bill requires meetings about chief executive officers of agencies to be in public. The full text of this bill is available here. This bill is sponsored by Rep. Michael Sylvia (R).  RTKNH proposed this bill.

At 1:00 p.m. is HB 1347, relative to information to be included in the minutes under the right-to-know law. This bill requires more details about the actions of public bodies to be recorded in meeting minutes. The full text of this bill is available here. This bill is sponsored by Rep. Michael Sylvia (R), Rep. James Spillane (R), and Rep. Kathleen Souza (R).  RTKNH proposed this bill.

At 1:30 p.m. is HB 1786, prohibiting costs for inspection of governmental records under the right-to-know law. This bill prohibits agencies from charging for costs to provide records for inspection. The full text of this bill is available here. This bill is sponsored by Rep. Michael Sylvia (R).  RTKNH proposed this bill.

At 2:00 p.m. is HB 1788, relative to costs charged under the right-to-know law. This bill limits charges for copies of records to the prevailing commercial rate. The full text of this bill is available here. This bill is sponsored by Rep. Michael Sylvia (R).  RTKNH proposed this bill.

At 2:30 p.m. is HB 1789, relative to costs of requests which are in electronic format under the right-to-know law. This bill makes copies of electronic records free. The full text of this bill is available here. This bill is sponsored by Rep. Kevin Verville (R).

N.H. Senate Hearing on SB395 on Access to Electronic Records on January 17 at 10:45

Senate Bill 395 to improve access to electronic records under the Right-to-Know Law has been introduced in the N.H. Senate and assigned to the Senate Public and Municipal Affairs Committee. This bill is sponsored by Sen. Bob Giuda (R), Sen. Martha Fuller Clark (D), Rep. Jordan Ulery (r), Sen. Ruth Ward (R), Sen. Sharon Carson (R), Rep. Duane Brown (r), Sen. William Gannon (R), Sen. David Watters (D), Sen. Gary Daniels (R), Sen. Daniel Innis (R), Sen. John Reagan (R), Sen. Kevin Avard (R), Sen. Harold French (R), Rep. Gary Hopper (R), and Rep. Charlotte DiLorenzo (D). RTKNH proposed this bill and appreciates all of its sponsors.

SB395 is scheduled for a hearing by the Senate Public and Municipal Affairs Committee on Wednesday, January 17, 2018 at 10:45 a.m. in room 102 of the Legislative Office Building in Concord, N.H. The public is encouraged to attend and testify in favor of this bill.

This bill adds 3 new provisions to RSA 91-A:4. The first provision is a new sentence added to RSA 91-A:4, I:

A citizen shall not be required to appear at the regular business premises of a body or agency or other location to be provided copies of governmental records in electronic format over the Internet.

The second provision adds a new sentence to RSA 91-A:4, IV:

No cost or fee shall be charged for providing governmental records in a readily available format over the Internet.

The third provision replaces some of the language of RSA 91-A:4, V:

[If copying to electronic media is not reasonably practicable, or if the person or entity requesting access requests a different method,] If feasible, governmental records provided in electronic format shall be provided on the requester’s preferred media, and in the requester’s preferred format. In the absence of a preferred media, the records shall be sent to the electronic mail address of the person making the request or made available on the public body’s or agency’s public Internet website. In the absence of a preferred format, the records shall be provided in a searchable machine-readable format. If none of the feasible media and formats are acceptable to the requester, the public body or agency may provide a printout of governmental records requested, or may use any other means reasonably calculated to comply with the request in light of the purpose of this chapter as expressed in RSA 91-A:1.

The full text of the bill is available here.

N.H. House Hearing on HB1337 to Apply RTK to Courts on January 11 at 10:45

House Bill 1337 to apply the Right-to-Know Law to the courts has been introduced in the N.H. House and assigned to the House Judiciary Committee. This bill is sponsored by Rep. Michael Brewster (R). RTKNH generally supports applying the Right-to-Know Law to the courts, but recommends amending this bill.

HB1337 is scheduled for a hearing by the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, January 11, 2018 at 10:45 a.m. in room 208 of the Legislative Office Building in Concord, N.H. The public is encouraged to attend and testify in favor of this bill.

This bill adds 1 sentence to RSA 91-A:1-a, VI:

(f) All New Hampshire courts.

RTKNH recommends that the courts should be added to RSA 91-A:1-a, V, instead, so they are treated as a public agency instead of a public body.

The full text of the bill is available here.

N.H. House Passes HB252 to Help Pro Se RTK Litigants

The New Hampshire House passed House Bill 252 with amendment last Wednesday. This bill removes a few gotchas that trip up pro se litigants who file Right-to-Know complaints in court without a lawyer. This bill makes it easier for documents filed with the complaint to be admitted as evidence, and it makes sure documents, such as the answer to a complaint, are provided before a court hearing.

HB 252 was studied by a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee over the summer. That subcommittee recommended an amendment that was approved by the full committee and reported Ought to Pass with Amendment, unanimously, 17 to 0. The amendment and committee report were approved by a voice vote as part of the consent calendar by the full House.

The amendment changes the language of HB 252 to add this language to RSA 91-A:7:

All documents filed with the petition and any response thereto shall be considered as evidence, subject to objection or ruling, or both, by the court. All documents submitted shall be provided to the opposing party prior to a hearing on the merits.

Here is the report of the House Judiciary Committee presented by Rep. Kurt Wuelper:

This bill, as amended, ensures that all documents submitted with or in response to a petition for a right-to-know dispute be considered as evidence in that case.

HB 252 now goes on to the Senate.