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Let the sunshine in: Hurting our right to know

April 24. 2018 5:43PM

Both the New Hampshire House and Senate are poised to miss the chance Thursday to improve New Hampshire’s Right-to-Know law.

The House Finance Committee is recommending that the full House kill Senate Bill 555, a bill establishing an ombudsman to settle right-to-know disputes. The bill passed the Senate in March and won preliminary House approval earlier this month.

But Finance says $48,000 per year is too much to spend. The bill would allow citizens to challenge when public officials deny their right-to-know requests, without the cost or hassle of going to court. It is a step toward open government, and we urge the House to ignore the Finance Committee’s recommendation, and pass the bill again.

Meanwhile, the Senate Public and Municipal Affairs Committee is recommending against passage of House Bill 1786, which would simply clarify that public agencies may not charge citizens for merely inspecting public records.

Agencies may charge a fee for copies, but some local officials want to bill citizens for the cost of having public employees prepare records ready for inspection.

But public officials already have a duty to ensure that public records are available for public inspection. It’s part of their job.

We should not put a toll on access to town hall. The public has a right to examine its files, free of charge. We should not start charging citizens for exercising this right.

The Senate should overturn the committee and approve HB 1786.

State Government Editorial

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