MACo Raises Concerns Over Impacts of Proposed PIA Revisions

MACo Legal & Policy Counsel Les Knapp testified to the Health & Government Operations Committee to support with amendments HB 502 – Public Information Act – Revisions. Mr. Knapp was joined by Hilary Ruley, Chief Solicitor from Baltimore City Dept. of Law, and Michael Field, a Senior Policy Advisor from Baltimore County, to express MACo and counties’ general support of the state laws ensuring public access to documents and information, but also raised concerns about aspects of the bill that pose serious legal, implementation, and cost challenges that deserve careful consideration and revision.

From the MACo Testimony:

MACo’s primary concern over the bill relates to the provisions giving the Public Information Act Compliance Board (Board) new authority to review record denials and compel disclosure. Currently, challenges to record denials are properly heard by the Circuit Court, where a judge can conduct an in camera (private) review of the records in question to determine whether their release was valid. This protects counties from liability concerns, particularly for mandatory denials.

However, neither the Board nor the Attorney General’s Office carry the same legal weight and protections afforded by formal judicial review. MACo urges the records denial portion of the bill be struck or, in the alternative, a formal Administrative Court process be established. MACo’s other amendments are largely technical but would provide needed clarity and corrections to the bill.

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2020 legislative session on MACo’s Legislative Tracking Database.