Agencies can charge for the execution of FOIA requests, but a newly-proposed bill in the Michigan State House would put a cap on those costs. Proponents of the bill say exorbitant fees are prohibitive and can be used to restrict access to information. But when hearings kicked off Tuesday, some opponents argued that excessive FOIA requests could bankrupt government agencies.
From Michigan Radio:
Bill Anderson of the Michigan Townships Association said local governments are already losing money processing requests.
“We had one township official telling us that two people have probably cost their township between $250,000 and $400,000 in costs related to FOIA fees that they were unable to recover,” he said.
Here’s a handy breakdown of FOIA fee categories, courtesy of the National Security Archive at GWU:
1) Commercial – Companies that or people who seek information for a use or purpose that furthers commercial, trade, or profit interests, including for use in litigation. Commercial requesters are required to pay for search, review and duplication costs.
2) Educational Institution – Preschools, public or private elementary or secondary schools, and institutions of graduate higher education, undergraduate higher education, professional education, or vocational education that operate a program(s) of scholarly research. Educational requesters are required to pay duplication costs, but are entitled to the first 100 pages without charge.
3) Non-Commercial Scientific Institution – Non-commercially operated institutions that conduct scientific research not intended to promote any particular product or industry. Non-commercial requesters are required to pay duplication costs, but are entitled to the first 100 pages without charge.
4) Representative of the News Media – People who actively gather news for entities organized and operated to publish or broadcast news to the public. News Media requesters are required to pay for duplication, but are entitled to the first 100 pages without charge.
5) Other Requesters – Requesters who do not fit into any of the above categories. These requesters are persons who are not commercial, news media, scientific or educational requesters and are required to pay search costs for more than 2 hours and duplication costs for more than 100 pages.