A state senator has introduced legislation to overhaul the right-to-know law in New Hampshire, a state that has been ranked almost dead last in giving its citizens access to public records.
Sen. Bob Giuda, R-Warren, introduced the legislation last month after chairing a study commission charged with simplifying the appeal process for citizens seeking records from public agencies. Currently, the only way for a citizen to appeal an agency’s right-to-know decision is through Superior Court, which involves a $400 filing fee and the prospect of thousands of dollars in legal fees.
The Center for Public Integrity in Washington, D.C., examined transparency procedures in the 50 states in 2015 and rated New Hampshire’s procedures on public access to information 49th. The center also gave the state an “F” grade.
“The burden is on the individual to show that they have a right to know the information …” Giuda told Watchdog.org. “The appeal process strongly favors municipalities.”
Under Giuda’s bill, citizens could appeal denials of requests for public information to an ombudsman hired by a new Citizens’ Right-to-Know Appeals Commission. The ombudsman, who is required to be a member of the state bar and familiar with right-to-know issues, would have 30 days to review the case and decide if the agency had acted correctly. Read more...