HB 685 Too Costly

House Bill 685 (HB 685) was amended at the end of last year’s session to radically change its purpose. The original bill text strengthened the Right-to-Know Law by ensuring all state contracts would be available to the public. But, the amendment to be voted on by the full house, perhaps this Wednesday, January 22, 2014, adds a new commission focused on limiting access to public records by restricting the number of records and increasing the costs to citizens.  This commission is called the Commission to Study the Costs of Responding to the Right-to-Know Law.  Clearly the purpose of this commission to study costs is designed to shift costs to individual citizens.

Specifically, here is the charge to the new commission in the amendment:

III.  The commission shall:

(a)  Study the costs to governmental bodies associated with responding to right-to-know requests.

(b)  Review laws from other jurisdictions pertaining to public access to governmental records to determine whether there is a charge to the requestor and if so, how that charge is assessed; whether the law allows for a page-limited initial response at no or minimal costs; whether there are agencies or staff dedicated to responding to government records requests and, if so, how those units are funded; how costs are allocated; and whether the laws limit the scope of permissible requests.

(c)  Make recommendations for legislation that would fairly balance the public’s right to access government records with the need of each governmental body to ensure that its staff is not unduly diverted from their core work functions to respond to right-to know requests.

Since HB 685 is retained from last year, there will not be another hearing by the House Judiciary Committee. They already voted quickly to approve the bill last November. If it passes the House, it will then go on to the Senate where there should be a hearing.

Please contact your Representative in the House and ask them to vote against HB 685.  Let them know citizens should be able to access records of their government without undue limits or restrictions.  Ask them to support HB 1156 that clarifies the costs for Right-to-Know requests in support of citizens instead of opposed to them.

Here are more details: