March 30th, 2008
City councilman proposes city FOI law to duplicate state law, give perks to journalists
By David Cuillier
A city council member in New Britain, Conn., is proposing a city law that would duplicate the state public records law and give reporters free photocopying of records up to $200. I hate to say it, but this is a bad idea. First, there’s no need to duplicate the state law. That could give some people the false impression that a local jurisdiction needs to have a public records law in order for people to have access to public records. State laws apply to local jurisdictions. I could see a city passing its own FOI law and then start adding in exemptions, whether they comply with state law or not. The other problem is giving journalists special privileges above citizens when it comes to accessing public records. While there is some precedent for that (FOIA copy fees waived for journalists, etc.), in my opinion newspapers should cough up the $10 in copy fees and call it good. Otherwise citizens may resent the special treatment and it could lead to officials wanting to create other different treatment for reporters, including restrictions. See story.