Virginia lawmaker wants to cut FOIA fees, but some in government are pushing back

Danica Roem, a former journalist who serves in the Virginia House of Delegates, has introduced legislation requiring Virginia public bodies to fulfill records requests for free, unless the request takes more than two hours of staff time to fulfill. Critics of the bill said FOIA requests sometimes are used to “harass” public officials, and the…


Va.: New Laws Would Help and Hurt Access to Information

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.


Major FOIA change afoot: Virginia bill protects names of state, local employees

Virginia legislation that could make it nigh impossible to discover the annual salaries of most state and local employees is headed to the Senate floor for a vote.

Senate Bill 552 cleared committee Monday by a single vote, and with some confusion over just how broad the bill was — it was pitched as protection only for law enforcement names.


Column: Flint case shows records should be open to all

Virginians should be immensely proud of a Virginia Tech professor and his research team’s members for their role in exposing the poisoning of Flint, Mich., residents who were forced to drink toxic water that was laced with dangerously high levels of lead.

The leader of the team is civil engineering professor Marc Edwards. He volunteered his time and considerable money (estimated at $150,000 of his own funds) after being contacted last summer by a Flint mother who conducted an Internet search for help after becoming concerned about the water coming into her home.


Virginia bill advances to keep more officials’ salaries secret

A measure aimed at keeping more information about public employees' pay out of the public eye won approval from a key Virginia Senate panel Tuesday, but the group narrowed the scope of legislation that could have kept secret all information about chemicals used in fracking.

The Senate General Laws Committee's Freedom of Information subcommittee asked for more study of legislation that would give two-thirds of Virginia counties and more than half of its cities twice as much time to respond to FOIA requests.


FOIA experts: Newport News $2M payment without public vote may have violated law

In Virginia, the Newport News City Council never took a public vote to authorize a $2 million settlement to a man in a recent wrongful conviction case — a common practice for local officials resolving lawsuits against the city that Freedom of Information Act experts say may violate state law.

The council authorized the city attorney to negotiate up to a certain undisclosed amount of money to settle the lawsuit in a closed session last year, but never took a public vote, City Attorney Collins L. Owens Jr. said.