House bill would limit fees charged on FOIA requests
Those who file Freedom of Information Act requests might pay less in the future.
House Bill No. 5879, introduced Sept. 11 by Rep. Mike Shirkey, R-Clarkville, would amend Michigan’s FOIA legislation placing a limit on how much public agencies can charge for public records.
“House Bill 5879 has been referred to the Committee on Oversight, Reform and Ethics,” said Rep. Kevin Cotter, R-Mount Pleasant. “There would likely be committee hearing and testimony before this bill would move to the house floor for consideration by the full House of Representatives.”
If passed, state agencies would no longer be able to charge for the inspection of records, and hourly wages can only be charged for the lowest paid employee capable of retrieving the information at a public agency. Under the proposed bill, if a FOIA is denied and the case is brought to court, agencies will not be allowed to cite new reasons for denying the request beyond those given in the initial denial.
According to the legislation, “A public body shall not charge a fee for a record produced more than five days after the deadline.”
The bill would limit copying costs to a maximum of 10 cents per page. Fees will also be reduced by 20 percent a day for any requests filed past the deadline, creating an incentive to complete FOIAs in a more timely manner.
“Charging enormous costs for a FOIA request is a form of economic stonewalling and must never be tolerated in our democratic society,” Shirkey said. ”The people have an inherent right to view public documents. The legislation is about ensuring transparency and accountability in our system of government.”
Cotter said the bill would create a uniformity in charges amongst municipalities. At present, agencies have up to five business days to approve or deny the request and can ask for an additional 10-day extension.
But there is a long road ahead of this bill, though, from introduction to being passed, Cotter said.
“There has already been discussion both in support and against the legislation, and I look forward to hearing more from both sides as the bill works its way through the legislative process,” Cotter said.
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