Nearly every state in the U.S. has their own version of Right to Know Laws, referred to variously as Freedom of Information (FOI), Open Records, Open Meetings, Open Government, or Sunshine laws.
In New Hampshire, the Right-to-Know Law is codified as RSA 91-A which is short for Revised Statues Annotated chapter 91-A. RSA 91-A is titled “Access to Governmental Records and Meetings” and it has several sections. This law defines the detailed procedures that must be followed to ensure citizens have access to government meetings and records.
Below are links to the current full text of RSA 91-A as well as links to the text of each section. The full text is too long to include here directly; however, the preamble concisely captures the spirit and purpose of RSA 91-A:
91-A:1 Preamble. – Openness in the conduct of public business is essential to a democratic society. The purpose of this chapter is to ensure both the greatest possible public access to the actions, discussions and records of all public bodies, and their accountability to the people.
RSA 91-A expands on the basic Right to Know in Part I Article 8 of the NH Constitution. The Right-to-Know Law has changed about 40 times since it was first written in 1967. Many court cases over the years have interpreted RSA 91-A. These cases provide guidance on how to apply the law in practice. In addition, there are many resources available on diverse aspects of this law. One of the best resources is the NH Attorney General’s Memorandum on Right to Know (2015).
- Section 91-A:1 Preamble. The preamble captures the spirit and purpose of chapter 91-A.
- Section 91-A:1-a Definitions. The definitions clarify terms used throughout RSA 91-A and especially clarify the scope of the law.
- Section 91-A:2 Meetings Open to Public. The definition of a meeting, exceptions to meetings, and detailed procedures for public meetings.
- Section 91-A:2-a Communications Outside Meetings. Limitations on communications of public officials when they are not in a meeting.
- Section 91-A:3 Nonpublic Sessions. Limitations and detailed procedures for non-public meetings.
- Section 91-A:4 Minutes and Records Available for Public Inspection. The definition of governmental records and detailed procedures for providing public access to those records.
- Section 91-A:5 Exemptions. Governmental records that are exempt from public access.
- Section 91-A:5-a Limited Purpose Release. A general exemption from public access to records released for limited purposes.
- Section 91-A:6 Employment Security. A general exemption from public access to records about unemployment.
- Section 91-A:7 Violation. Detailed procedures for how a citizen enforces RSA 91-A.
- Section 91-A:8 Remedies. Details on the sanctions and penalties that may apply to violations of RSA 91-A.
- Section 91-A:9 Destruction of Certain Information Prohibited. Additional criminal penalties for the destruction of certain governmental records.
- Section 91-A:10 Release of Statistical Tables and Limited Data Sets for Research. Detailed procedures for public access to statistical governmental data for research.