National Freedom of Information Coalition
Protecting Your Right to Open Government

Opinion: Revive the FOIA bill in South Carolina

Opinion from Rock Hill Herald Online:

S.C. House members apparently don’t mind sunshine unless it shines directly on them.

A House bill that would have made it faster and cheaper for South Carolinians to get copies of public documents was making good progress earlier this month. But that was before the introduction of an amendment that would have ended the exemption for legislators that allows them to withhold memos, working papers and correspondence with constituents from the public record.

Most of the debate has centered on the high cost of storing legislators’ records. S.C. Department of Archives and History director Eric Emerson, whose agency stores many public records, said his department could incur added costs of almost $1 million to store the legislators’ papers.

But some proponents questioned the estimate, saying it is an excuse by legislators to avoid having to maintain their records and make them public when asked. Gov. Nikki Haley also supports eliminating the lawmakers’ exemption.

Nonetheless, largely because of the amendment ending the exemption, House members voted 72-34 last week to send the bill back to the Judiciary Committee.