S.C. House passes legislation to remove barriers from state government FOIA requests

Big news out of South Carolina for transparency and FOIA access. The state House almost unanimously passed a bill that makes it more difficult for legislators to keep government records from journalists and the public. From the Herald Online:

The bill also included an amendment that makes legislators’ memos and correspondence subject to Freedom of Information Act requests. Rep. Rick Quinn, R-Lexington, who introduced that requirement in an amendment to the original bill, said it is unfair for lawmakers to exempt themselves from the law.

The bill would stop one of the more egregious practices used by government officials to discourage people from making Freedom of Information Act requests – overcharging for public documents. Proponents of the bill noted one case in which a woman was charged $10,000 for her request.

Under the House bill, charges for paper copies would be limited to the market rate – basically whatever FedEx or Staples is charging per copy. No charges would be permitted for information stored or transmitted electronically, and public bodies would have to either post online or make immediately available meeting minutes or any documents passed out at public meetings over the past six months.