On Tuesday the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony on HB178. This bill establishes a study commission on resolving Right-to-Know complaints. HB178 was previously passed by the House Judiciary Committee.
David Saad, President of RTKNH, appeared at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing and testified in support of the bill.
Here is his written testimony:
To: Honorable Members of the Judiciary Committee
I ask you to support HB 178 to establish a commission to study complaints.
The Right-To-Know Law ensures openness and visibility into the actions, decisions, and records of government, therefore we have a right to know what decisions they are making, when they make them, and why they arrived at a given decision. Violations of the law diminishes our access to this information and creates an environment where misuse of power can flourish and distrust of government grows.
Should a citizen feel the law has been violated, currently, enforcement of the law falls squarely on the citizen’s shoulders. Costs and legal complexities associated with filing a petition in court is a financial and emotional burden, and for some it’s simply prohibitive. Additional costs are also born by public bodies and the courts. Regardless of who wins or loses the lawsuit, the taxpayer is burdened with a great deal of the total expense. To reduce these costs to the taxpayers, this study commission will study ways to reduce both the number of and the expense of resolving complaints.
Some of the alternative ways other states resolve right to know complaints include the use of:
- Independent Arbiters
- Advisory Councils
- Public Access Counselors
- Attorney General’s Office
- Compliance Boards
- Ombudsman Office
The appeals boards currently operating in NH (i.e. Tax and Land Appeals, Water Council, etc) also provide a framework and track record for success in resolving complaints.
These and other options should be reviewed for their merits with the goal of establishing a less costly procedure for resolving right to know complaints.