Proposed Fredom of Information Act Law Changes

This  Article copied below was Published in the Sunday November 25, 2013 Evening News.

FOIA  fixes  will  benefit  Michiganders

(AP) – A committee in the Michigan House has sent a bill making essential improvements to the state’s Freedom of Information Act to the full chamber for consideration, likely later this year.

That is good news for media organiza­tions that fight battles to get public infor­mation on a regular basis. But it’s even better news for citizens, who are entitled to see records that let them evaluate the quality of their government.

Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act was passed in the 1970s and has been amended and updated many times. But its core purpose remains the same: The act protects citizens’ rights to request and review any government document that is not specifically exempted.

Over the decades, too many government officials have come to view the law not as a matter of citizens’ access, but as a mat­ter of protecting information from disclo­sure. Some jurisdictions have blatantly attempted to turn it into a revenue source by charging large fees to prepare docu­ments for review or to copy them.

In some cases the FOIA coordinators assigned to manage contact with the pub­lic and the media are so badly informed about their obligations or their agency operations that they declined to release information that later was discovered to be on a government website.

House Bill 4001, sponsored by Rep. Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, strives to end to the worst abuses. It prevents charging copying fees to those who merely wish to look at records. It limits copying charges to 10 cents per page and allows labor charges up to triple the state’s minimum wage, currently $7.40 per hour. It also reduces an agency’s fees for each day that it is late in providing information and increases punitive damages for violations from $500 to $5,000.

Another key provision would alter the current law that says citizens who lose a court appeal after an agency denied their request then have to pay the agency’s legal fees. People ought not be punished for attempting to hold government account­able.

Government should be accountable to the citizens it serves.

Lansing State Journal

Does any of the abuses named above seem to be consistent with the way Sugar Island Elected Officials are presently handling F.O.I.As?