HB633 Introduced

House Bill 633 to extend the Right-to-Know Law with a new commission to hear violations of the law and to enhance notice for meetings has been introduced in the N.H. House and assigned to the House Judiciary Committee. This bill is sponsored by Rep. Kenneth Weyler (D), Rep. Kathleen Souza (R), Rep. James Spillane (R).

This bill adds a new section RSA 91-A:8-a and adds a new phrase to RSA 91-A:2, II.  The new section defines a new grievance commission to hear Right-to-Know cases.  Here is the new section:

91-A:8-a Right-to-Know Grievance Commission.

I. There is hereby established the right-to-know grievance commission. The commission shall consist of 15 citizens who shall not be members of the New Hampshire general court. All members shall be residents of New Hampshire.

(a) The members shall be appointed as follows:

(1) Ten public members, one from each county, appointed by the governor and council.

(2) Of the 5 remaining members, one member shall be appointed by the speaker of the house of representatives, one member shall be appointed by the president of the senate, one member shall be appointed by the minority leader of the house of representatives, one member shall be appointed by the minority leader of the senate, and one member shall be appointed by the chief justice of the superior court.

(b) Each member of the commission shall, before performing his or her duties, take an oath to administer the duties of the commission faithfully and impartially, and such oath shall be filed in the office of the secretary of state.

(c) The initial members of the commission shall serve staggered terms as follows: 1/3 of the members shall serve for one year, 1/3 of the members shall serve for 2 years, and 1/3 of the members shall serve for 3 years. The term of office of each member shall be 3 years and until a successor is appointed and qualified. Vacancies shall be filled in the same manner and for the unexpired terms. Members of the commission shall receive no compensation except for mileage and other expenses incurred while performing commission business. Mileage shall be paid at the rate set for state employees. A chairperson and vice chairperson shall be chosen from among the members of the commission. Eight members of the commission shall constitute a quorum to conduct hearings.

(d) The commission shall be administratively attached, under RSA 21-G:10, to the department of justice.

II. The commission shall submit an annual report commencing on November 1, 2015, relative to the commission’s actions and decisions to the speaker of the house of representatives, the president of the senate, the governor, and the state library.

III. The commission shall hear and determine matters of grievance under RSA 91-A. Any citizen may petition the commission by filing a complaint with the commission and paying a $75 filing fee which shall be used to defray the costs of the commission. Such filing fee may be waived by the commission if the commission determines that such fee will cause an unfair financial burden on the petitioner. After review of the claim and a decision by the commission that the matter has merit and is not frivolous, the commission shall schedule a hearing within 60 days from the receipt of the claim. If the commission finds the claim to be without merit or to be frivolous, it shall dismiss the complaint and explain in writing to the complainant its reasons for dismissing the complaint. The commission shall serve notice, in writing, of the time and place of the hearing upon all appropriate parties at least 20 days prior to the date of the hearing. All hearings held by the commission shall be held pursuant to RSA 541-A:31-36 unless such proceedings are specifically inconsistent with the provisions of this chapter.

IV. The commission shall issue its decisions in writing and shall include findings of facts. The party or parties shall be notified by mail of any decision.

V. The parties shall have 30 days to request reconsideration of rulings made by the commission. A motion for reconsideration or other post-decision relief shall be filed within 30 days of the date of on the clerk’s written notice of the order of decision, which shall be mailed by the clerk on the date of the notice. The motion shall state, with particular clarity, points of law or fact that the commission has overlooked or misapprehended and shall contain such argument in support of the motion as the claimant desires to be present, but the motion shall not exceed 10 pages. A hearing on the motion shall not be permitted except by order of the commission. If a motion for reconsideration or other post-decision relief is granted, the commission may revise its order or take other appropriate action without rehearing or may schedule a further hearing.

VI. A decision of the commission may be appealed, by either party, by applying for a rehearing and appealing to the superior court for the county in which the party resides in accordance with the procedures set forth in RSA 677:2-14, inclusive.

VII. If no timely appeal is taken pursuant to paragraph VI, the decision of the commission shall become final. The commission shall file a certified abstract of any final decision with the clerk of the superior court in the county of residence of the complainant. The clerk of such court shall enter judgment thereon, and such judgment may be enforced as with any final judgment of the superior court.

The new phrase added to a sentence in the middle of RSA 91-A:2, II requires the notice to include an agenda and increases the notice time from 24 to 72 hours   Here is the full revised sentence:

Meeting notice and the agenda shall be made at least [24] 72 hours, excluding Sundays and legal holidays, prior to such meetings.

The full text of the bill is available here.