Category: Changes to Law

2017 Summary of Right-to-Know Bills

All the Right-to-Know bills are finished in both the House or Senate for 2017.  As such, it is a good time to summarize the results for the 2017 legislative session.  There were 9 Right-to-Know bills tracked by RTKNH.  3 bills were passed, 6 bills were killed, and 1 bill was retained in committee.

Passed and Signed.  The following 3 bills were passed by both chambers and signed by the Governor.

HB178 a bill drafted by RTKNH, establishes a 13 member study commission on resolving Right-to-Know complaints.

HB460 a bill drafted by RTKNH, states that meeting minutes must now include any objections made to any discussions during a meeting if a member of the public body believes that the discussion is in violation of the Right-to-Know law.  

HB170 states that if a public body maintains an Internet website it shall either post its approved minutes in a consistent and reasonably accessible location on the website or post and maintain a notice on the website stating where the minutes may be found.  Also, If a public body chooses to post meeting notices on the body’s Internet website, it shall do so in a consistent and reasonably accessible location on the website.  If it does not post notices on the website, it shall post and maintain a notice on the website stating where meeting notices are posted.

RTKNH wishes to thank Rep. Ken Weyler, Rep Majorie Smith, Rep. Dan Hynes, and Rep. Chris True for sponsoring a RTHNH bill.

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Right-to-Know law expanded to require public body to post information about meeting notice and minutes on website

Governor Sununu signed HB170 into law on July 18th.

This bill states that if a public body maintains an Internet website or contracts with a third party to maintain an Internet website on its behalf, it shall either post its approved minutes in a consistent and reasonably accessible location on the website or post and maintain a notice on the website stating where the minutes may be reviewed and copies requested.  Also, If a public body chooses to post meeting notices on the body’s Internet website, it shall do so in a consistent and reasonably accessible location on the website.  If it does not post notices on the website, it shall post and maintain a notice on the website stating where meeting notices are posted.

This change takes effect January 1, 2018.

Right-to-Know law expanded to provide greater visibility into violations by public officials

Governor Sununu signed HB460 into law on June 28th.

This bill states that meeting minutes must now include any objections made to any discussions during a meeting if a member of the public body believes that the discussion is in violation of the Right-to-Know law.  The objection recorded in the meeting minutes must include the name of the person objecting to the discussion and a description of the violation.  If the violation is not corrected by the board,  the member who stated the objection may continue to participate in the meeting without exposure to possible penalties for the violation.

This bill was drafted by Right to Know New Hampshire (RTKNH).

BILL SPONSORS: Rep. True, Rock. 4; Rep. J. Edwards, Rock. 4; Rep. Torosian, Rock. 14; Rep. Brown, Graf. 16; Rep. Comeau, Carr. 5

This change takes effect January 1, 2018.

Bill to establish a commission to study better ways to resolve Right-to-Know complaints signed into Law

Governor Sununu signed HB178 into law on June 16th.  This bill establishes a 13 member study commission on resolving Right-to-Know complaints.

 

Should a citizen feel the Right-to-Know 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 commission will study ways to reduce both the number of and the expense of resolving complaints consistent with the following:

(1)  Encouraging resolution of right-to-know complaints directly between citizens and public agencies and bodies.

(2)  Reducing the burden and costs of right-to-know complaints on the courts.

(3)  Reducing the burden and costs of right-to-know complaints on public agencies and bodies.

(4)  Reducing the burden and costs of right-to-know complaints on citizens aggrieved by violations of RSA 91-A.

(5)  Increasing awareness and compliance with the right-to-know law to minimize violations.

The commission will report its findings  and any recommendations for proposed legislation by November 1, 2017.

2016 Session Summary

All the Right-to-Know bills are finished in both the House or Senate for 2016.  As such, it is a good time to summarize the results for the 2016 legislative session.  There were 16 Right-to-Know bills.  1 bill was tabled, 9 bills were killed, 1 bill referred to interim study, 3 bills were passed with amendments, and 2 bills were passed as introduced.

Passed and Signed.  5 bills were passed by both chambers and signed by the Governor.

HB1418 a bill drafted by RTKNH, requires that public bodies non-public minutes meet the same minimum standard for content as their public minutes.

HB1419 a bill drafted by RTKNH, requires that public bodies record all actions during non-public meetings in such a manner that the the vote of each member is ascertained and recorded.

HB606 states that no fee shall be charged for the inspection, without copying, of records.  This bill was similar to HB138, a bill drafted by RTKNH which was introduced in the 2015 session to accomplish the goal that ‘no fee shall be charged to make a governmental record available for inspection’.  While HB138 was killed, the language from our bill was incorporated into HB606.

HB1395 allows for the archival of records in PDF format.

HB285 adds a new exemption for non-public meetings for “consideration of legal advice provided by legal counsel, either in writing or orally, to one or more members of the public body, even where legal counsel is not present”.  RTKNH opposed this bill.

 

RTKNH wishes to thank Rep. Michael Sylvia, Rep. Chris True, and Rep. Duane Brown  for sponsoring HB1418 and HB1419.

Governor Signed HB606

Gov. Maggie Hassan signed HB606, so this bill is now law. The law is chapter 283 of this year’s session and it took effect June 21, 2016, the date it was signed. This law clarifies that no fees may be charged to inspect or deliver records when no copies are made. Right to Know NH supported this bill.