Proposed Compliance Board Could Override County Public Record Fees

A February 13th Delmarvanow.com article highlighted legislation (HB 658) proposed by Delegate Jill Carter that would create a new Public Information Act Compliance Board that could force State and local government agencies to produce public information records that had previously been denied or reduce fees charged for the preparation and copying of the records.  The House Health and Government Operations Committee heard the bill on Wednesday.

“We believe this addresses a fairly significant flaw in the public information act,” said Jennifer Bevan-Dangle, executive director of Common Cause in Maryland. “The petitioner does not have an affordable or accessible appeals process.”  …

Governments can deny requests and charge a fee, which is where the board would come in. If a person or organization wants to appeal a denial or a fee of more than $500, they would have a place to do so.  …

Bill sponsor Delegate Jill Carter said to ensure transparent government, Maryland needs an arbiter outside the judicial process. The court system, she said, is expensive and not financially available to everyone.

“This is one tool in the toolbox we can use to bring more openness to government,” said Carter, D-41-Baltimore City.

The Maryland/Delaware/District of Columbia/ Press Association and the Daily Times newspaper also testified in support of the bill.

Delegate Dan Morhaim, chair of the Government Operations Subcommittee – the subcommittee that would be reviewing the bill, suggested that the Public Information Act Compliance Board be combined with the existing Open Meetings Act Compliance Board.  Both Carter and Bevan-Dangle said they were not opposed to the idea so long as the board retained the authority laid out in HB 658.

HB 658 Fiscal Note

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