For advocates of government transparency, the General Assembly's 2017 session was a mixed bag, resulting in bills that both increased and decreased information available under the Freedom of Information Act.
According to Megan Rhyne, executive director of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government, the session saw fewer FOIA-related bills than in past years. Even so, the group stayed busy opposing legislation that Rhyne said would keep important information from the public.
She said one such bill was HB 1678, which would have allowed information on the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to be withheld from mandatory disclosure under FOIA. The bill cleared the House of Delegates but was ultimately defeated in the Senate General Laws and Technology Committee.
Rhyne said the "most concerning" bill this legislative session was HB 2043, which would have made the release of the names of police officers involved in police shooting investigations a Class 1 misdemeanor.