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.
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.
Gov. Maggie Hassan signed HB1395, so this bill is now law. The law is chapter 226 of this year’s session and it takes effect August 9, 2016. This law allows portable document format/archive files for long term records. This bill amends RSA 33-A, not RSA 91-A, but impacts how records are stored and hence accessible through the Right-to-Know Law.
In a unanimous decision, the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled today that the public has a right under the Right-to-Know Law to records in electronic format. Donna Green had requested an electronic copy of budget data, a spreadsheet, but was only offered to inspect a paper copy. The Rockingham Superior Court had ruled that SAU 55 had the discretion to only provide paper copies. But, the Supreme Court reversed that Rockingham decision and ruled that even though the Right-to-Know Law is ambiguous, when read within the purpose of the statute, and the overwhelming usefulness of electronic records, the SAU must provide electronic copies. The decision of the court is available here.