EDITORIAL: Move ahead with openness laws
We’re glad Rep. Bill Taylor is continuing is fight for stronger freedom of information laws in South Carolina. His fight for the bill last year ended after another legislator added an amendment requiring legislators to make more of their information public.
Taylor’s bill prohibits government agencies from charging the public outrageous fees for access to records and copies, and shortens the time agencies have to comply with requests.
The legislation is sorely needed in South Carolina and Taylor, a former newsman, is determined to see it through.
During a recent hearing on the bill, a House panel heard from representatives for local governments and law enforcement who, while they say they want tougher FOIA laws, they worry this bill goes too far.
In a small office with limited employees, it can be difficult to stop the day-to-day work to comply with a request in the shortened timetable. Holly Eskridge, who manages Rock Hill’s public records requests, told the panel of a request that took her 45 hours to fulfill, The Associated Press reported.
That’s a lot of time, but most requests are not that involved.
Take Albert Wasden of Wagener. She said the town of Swansea tried to charge her $9,996 for copies of four years’ worth of town budgets and the board minutes from 10 meetings.
Eskridge suggested including a fee schedule in the bill. That sounds like an idea worth considering – as long as the goal is in the best interest of the citizens.
However, adding more pieces to the legislation could muck the process and prevent this important legislation from becoming law. We hope all sides can work together to push the bill forward and make it law during this session.