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Thread: Another FOIA Bill

  1. #1
    Accomplished Advocate peter nap's Avatar
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    Another FOIA Bill

    HB 2383 Freedom of Information Act; court review in cases of requester harassment.

    Introduced by: Lynwood W. Lewis, Jr. | all patrons ... notes | add to my profiles
    SUMMARY AS INTRODUCED:

    Freedom of Information Act (FOIA); court review in cases of requester harassment. Allows any public body to petition an appropriate court for a summary determination whether a requester, in making a request for records, is intending to harass or otherwise abuse the rights or privileges granted by FOIA or whether such request is overly burdensome on the public body.


    This should be heard on Thursday at 5:00 in the
    FOIA subcommittee of the General Laws committee.

    I'll get there early to see two legislators about other bills but will definitely be at the committee hearing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by peter nap View Post
    HB 2383 Freedom of Information Act; court review in cases of requester harassment.

    Introduced by: Lynwood W. Lewis, Jr. | all patrons ... notes | add to my profiles
    SUMMARY AS INTRODUCED:

    Freedom of Information Act (FOIA); court review in cases of requester harassment. Allows any public body to petition an appropriate court for a summary determination whether a requester, in making a request for records, is intending to harass or otherwise abuse the rights or privileges granted by FOIA or whether such request is overly burdensome on the public body.


    This should be heard on Thursday at 5:00 in the
    FOIA subcommittee of the General Laws committee.

    I'll get there early to see two legislators about other bills but will definitely be at the committee hearing.
    So, if I'm reading this right, they are basically trying to say that they want a court to exempt them from the law if they think it would be harassment to answer a FOIA request?

    That just strikes me as a bad idea. What's to keep them from getting a sympathetic judubberstamp every request as harassment?
    Alma 43:47 - "And again, the Lord has said that: Ye shall defend your families even unto bloodshed...."
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    Regular Member The Wolfhound's Avatar
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    It is only REASONABLE......NOT!

    I am sure it is just an honest response to a request from some governmental agency that has grown tired (FEELS HARRASSED) by having to actually respond to questions and requests from the lowly citizenry. I mean, we know they ALWAYS have OUR best interest at heart, RIGHT? Does the legislator think he is restricting citizen's rights? Most likely not. Can the current system be abused? Hell yes, too much water can be fatal but try living without it. Anything that limits your rights (and in my humble opinion this CLEARLY does) needs to be opposed. It only opens the door for those that would hide their actions from public scruitiny. One more cobble stone on that road to hell.

    If our requests become too burdensome on a locality, then maybe they should consider open electronic records of everything they do. No FOIA required if it is all available. If you don't need to hide anything from the citizens, do you need secrets?
    Last edited by The Wolfhound; 01-24-2011 at 12:39 PM.

  4. #4
    Regular Member Repeater's Avatar
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    Senator Edwards SB1467: Criminal Records

    SB1467 Summary:

    Amends the definition of "criminal investigative file" so that the exemption applies to records relating to active or ongoing investigations or prosecutions.
    This would seem to mean that, once investigations or prosecutions are concluded, those records will have to to be released to the requester; that is: "... the exemption applies only to records relating to active or ongoing investigations or prosecutions."

    Sounds good for transparency.

  5. #5
    Accomplished Advocate peter nap's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Repeater View Post
    SB1467 Summary:



    This would seem to mean that, once investigations or prosecutions are concluded, those records will have to to be released to the requester; that is: "... the exemption applies only to records relating to active or ongoing investigations or prosecutions."

    Sounds good for transparency.
    Thanks Repeater!
    I had missed that one.
    This time of year is like looking for triangular grains of sand on the beach.

    That'll upset thre RPD!
    Last edited by peter nap; 01-24-2011 at 01:19 PM.

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    Regular Member Repeater's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by peter nap View Post
    Thanks Repeater!
    I had missed that one.
    This time of year is like looking for triangular grains of sand on the beach.

    That'll upset thre RPD!
    Um, Surry, too ...

  7. #7
    Regular Member TFred's Avatar
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    I always go to the text... Seen too many bills where the summary is incomplete, or sometimes I even wonder if it's intentionally misleading...

    This one is pretty close though, adding this text:

    Any public body may petition the appropriate court as provided in 2.2-3713 for a summary determination whether a requester, in making a request for records, is intending to harass or otherwise abuse the rights or privileges granted under this chapter or whether such request is overly burdensome on the public body.
    It seems to me another translation for "whether such request is overly burdensome on the public body" could very easily become "because we just don't want to, and we're too busy anyway".

    That condition is so vague, it essentially guts the concept of FOIA altogether.

    Once they find one "friendly" judge, they're done.

    TFred

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    This completely undermines the spirit of the law. First how can a citizen "abuse" or "harass" a government agency through a FOIA request? The point is that all of this information is supposed to be available for the public. There is no way to abuse that which is already rightfully the people's. Second how can a FOIA request create an undue burden? If it will take a while to put it together the agency can petition a court for an extension. That is totally reasonable and makes any request manageable for any agency. If their records are really such a mess that a FOIA request causes problems then they really need to rethink how they track their records.

    I feel like this an an issue that both the right and the left can support and I'm spreading the word among the FOIA-loving William and Mary community.

  9. #9
    Regular Member Repeater's Avatar
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    Important backstory

    Quote Originally Posted by TFred View Post
    I always go to the text... Seen too many bills where the summary is incomplete, or sometimes I even wonder if it's intentionally misleading...

    This one is pretty close though, adding this text:



    It seems to me another translation for "whether such request is overly burdensome on the public body" could very easily become "because we just don't want to, and we're too busy anyway".

    That condition is so vague, it essentially guts the concept of FOIA altogether.

    Once they find one "friendly" judge, they're done.

    TFred
    Thank you. That was important. It inspired me to dig into this; I discovered this backstory that sheds light into this. Having read through this, I reasonably can give the bill 2 thumbs down.

    Towns Gone Wild Starring Delegate Lynwood Lewis

    If this were fiction it would almost be funny. Unfortunately, it is all too real.

    The Eastern Shore town of Hallwood, VA. is a small town of less than 300 residents. The best way to describe the Mayor, Town Council, Police Chief and other Town administrators is Twin Peaks meets Mayberry.

    The town seems to be on a mission to run one resident out of town. What started as a rather ordinary dispute between neighbors has escalated beyond the realm of sanity and involves the Mayor, the Town Council, Clerks, the Police Chief, and Delegate Lynwood Lewis.
    It's all rather sordid, how the town gangs up on citizen Smith. Read it all, if you wish.

    More:

    Feud May Destroy Eastern Shore Town of Hallwood

  10. #10
    Regular Member TFred's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Repeater View Post
    Thank you. That was important. It inspired me to dig into this; I discovered this backstory that sheds light into this. Having read through this, I reasonably can give the bill 2 thumbs down.

    Towns Gone Wild Starring Delegate Lynwood Lewis



    It's all rather sordid, how the town gangs up on citizen Smith. Read it all, if you wish.

    More:

    Feud May Destroy Eastern Shore Town of Hallwood
    So they are taking this feud to the state level by changing the FOIA law? That is ridiculous... what a bunch of rednecks.... no, that is too insulting to "rednecks"....

    TFred

  11. #11
    Regular Member vt357's Avatar
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    Allows any public body to petition an appropriate court for a summary determination whether a requester, in making a request for records, is intending to harass or otherwise abuse the rights or privileges granted by FOIA or whether such request is overly burdensome on the public body
    Isn't that already implied in the current FOIA system? If somebody requests 10,000 pages of documents, you have to PAY to get those documents. How is getting paid to do your job overly burdensome?

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