Freedom of Information reform delayed

  • Posted: Saturday, February 23, 2013 12:14 a.m.
    UPDATED: Saturday, February 23, 2013 9:13 a.m.
Taylor
Taylor

 
 
Action on the Freedom of Information reform measure Rep. Bill Taylor, R-Aiken, introduced, has been delayed, but the legislator has every confidence it will ultimately pass.

What appears to be a sticking point, and what likely led to the bill’s demise in the S.C. Senate last year, is the removal of the legislative exemption, which was offered up as an amendment by the House Judiciary Committee. Then, the committee voted to delay action on the bill until next week.

Overall, the bill is intended to provide far more government transparency. It would require all entities to respond within a reasonable time frame to requests from media and citizens depending on how old the records requested are. It would also require public bodies to publicize the rates they charge for searching and copying records.

The amendment would remove the current legislative FOI exemption, but allow for documents relating to proposed legislation to be withheld until the bill was filed, and to also shield correspondence from constituents.

“That part is difficult,” Taylor said. “It would fix it so that much or all of our work is open to public scrutiny. (Yet) most legislators do not want to disclose and compromise a constituent’s email and private information.”

He said almost daily he talks with Bill Rogers, executive director of the S.C. Press Association, and other legislators on how to craft “the best bill possible.”

“Is it better to have it (the legislative exemption) as an amendment or a separate bill? We have not resolved that,” he said. “We have got to get this right.”

The measure has bipartisan support, Taylor added, and Gov. Nikki Haley has shown herself to be an advocate for this type of reform.

“I predict to you it will go through the House and get passed,” he said.

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