An Act To Improve the Freedom of Access Laws of Maine
Sec. 1. 1 MRSA §402, sub-§1-B is enacted to read:
Sec. 2. 1 MRSA §408-A, sub-§1-A is enacted to read:
Sec. 3. 1 MRSA §408-A, sub-§3, as amended by PL 2015, c. 317, §1, is further amended to read:
Sec. 4. Review; report. The Right To Know Advisory Committee, established under the Maine Revised Statutes, Title 5, section 12004-J, subsection 14, shall examine the specific challenges of ensuring public access to public records in the face of new and emerging technologies and shall develop recommendations that are designed to preserve communications that can be accessed by the public. In conducting its review, the committee shall specifically examine:
1. The effect of the increasing reliance on the use of text messaging to conduct business and how text messaging fits within the parameters of the Freedom of Access Act;
2. How to ensure the preservation of public records when the use of technology that does not create a permanent record, such as Snapchat, is surging; and
3. Strategies to encourage public agencies and public officials to adopt business practices that are specifically designed to preserve public records that are subject to the Freedom of Access Act.
The Right To Know Advisory Committee shall submit its report, together with any proposed implementing legislation, to the Joint Standing Committee on Judiciary by December 4, 2019. Upon receipt and review of the report, the joint standing committee may report out a bill to the Second Regular Session of the 129th Legislature.
The purpose of this bill is to enhance access to public records without imposing undue burdens on the efficient and effective functioning of government. This bill makes the following changes to the Freedom of Access Act.
1. Current law defines public records that are subject to the Freedom of Access Act as matter in the possession or custody of an agency or public official that has been received or prepared for use in connection with, or that contains information relating to, the transaction of public or governmental business. This bill defines "public or governmental business" as the administration of public policy and the exercise of governmental power through laws, rules, ordinances, regulations and the equivalent.
2. The bill requires that, when requesting to inspect or to receive a copy of a public record, a person must provide to the agency or official with custody of the record sufficient information to identify the record sought. Under the bill, a request for a public record must include, at a minimum, the specific subject matter contained in the record and the date or dates upon which the record was created or a range of dates within which the record may have been created.
3. Current law requires that, within "a reasonable time" of receiving a request for information, the agency or official must provide a good faith, nonbinding estimate of the time within which the agency or official will comply. This bill instead requires that the agency or official, within 30 days of receiving the request, provide to the requester an update on progress on the request and, within 30 days of providing the update, fulfill the request. If the agency or official is unable to fulfill the entirety of the request within the specified time period, the agency or official must provide to the requester an explanation of the reason or reasons it was unable to comply, fulfill those portions of the request that it can fulfill and provide a written estimate of the expected date of compliance with the remainder of the request.
4. The bill directs the Right To Know Advisory Committee to examine the specific challenges of ensuring public access to public records in the face of new and emerging technologies and to develop recommendations that are designed to preserve communications that can be accessed by the public. The Right To Know Advisory Committee is directed to report its findings and recommendations to the Joint Standing Committee on Judiciary, which is authorized to report out a bill to the Second Regular Session of the 129th Legislature.