State to Consider Tightening Public Information Timeframe

During the 2020 legislative session the General Assembly will assess the timeline for reporting under Maryland’s Public Information Act (MPIA). Already pre-filed legislation would reduce the number of days government agencies have to provide requested documents from thirty down to seven. 

Current State law affords agencies 30 business days to fulfill requests, making Maryland the most generous of the 39 states that have a set time-frame requirement. The other eleven states have vague language that allows for agency discretion.

The bill’s sponsor Del. Michelle Guyton hopes to bring Maryland in line with other states by narrowing the time-frame, and believes it will have a positive impact on both transparency and accountability. It is unclear how agencies will react to the proposal, but several may require additional resources to comply with a tougher time limit if the bill passes.

From coverage in the Gunpowder Gazette:

Factors, such as an agency’s backlog of requests – or the depth of an individual’s request – may contribute to delayed responses past the allowable time period.  Agencies may also charge fees for copying, searching and redacting information.  Processing time for payments may create additional delays, particularly if an agency’s method of accepting payment is antiquated.

But as it stands, those seeking records in Maryland can wait longer than three-quarters of the country, as currently allowed by Maryland law.

Should the MPIA bill pass, the Maryland General Assembly would be directly impacted by the passage of the bill.  Legislators would, in effect, be voting to allow the press and the public to gain access to their own documents faster.

While Guyton says she has not yet encountered any internal opposition, she said, “I expect there to be some (opposition), most likely from State Agencies who will be forced to comply.”

For more on public information access in Maryland, visit the Attorney General’s online handbook.