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HB 1985 Freedom of Information.

Introduced by: Clifton A. Woodrum | all patrons    ...    notes | add to my profiles

SUMMARY AS PASSED: (all summaries)

Freedom of Information. Rewrites the Freedom of Information Act as follows: (i) clarifies the definitions of “public body” and “public records”; (ii) adds a requirement that public officials read and familiarize themselves with FOIA; (iii) clarifies the procedure to be used by public bodies in responding to FOIA requests; (iv) clarifies what charges may be assessed by a public body for supplying requested records; (v) clarifies that public records maintained by a public body in an electronic data processing system or database shall be made available to a requester at reasonable cost; (vi) clarifies that excision of exempt fields of information from a database or conversion of data from one available format to another is not the creation of a new public record; (vii) creates a new section within FOIA to deal exclusively with the release of criminal records; (viii) clarifies the scholastic records exemption; (ix) narrows the working papers exemption for the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, members of the General Assembly, and other high-ranking government officials by defining (a) “working papers” as those records prepared by or for named public officials for their personal or deliberative use and (b) “Office of the Governor” as the Governor, his chief of staff, counsel, director of policy, cabinet secretaries, director of the Virginia Liaison Office, and those individuals to whom the Governor has delegated his authority in accordance with law, and by providing that no record which is otherwise open to inspection shall be deemed exempt by virtue of the fact that it has been attached to or incorporated within any working paper or correspondence; (x) clarifies the exemptions for legal opinions of local government attorneys and legal memoranda compiled specifically for use in litigation; (xi) combines current exemptions for the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the ABC Board, and the Department of Corrections relating to security manuals, surveillance techniques, and architectural/engineering drawings of their facilities, etc., into a single exemption; (xii) adds a requirement that notice of meetings of public bodies be placed in a prominent public location at which notices are regularly posted and in the office of the clerk or chief administrator of the public body, with the use of electronic postings encouraged; (xiii) narrows the real property open-meeting exemption to discussions or considerations of the acquisition (and not the condition or use) of real property; (xiv) clarifies the consultation with legal counsel exemption for open meetings by defining the term “probable litigation”; (xv) clarifies the procedure to be followed by a public body in convening in a closed session; (xvi) provides that, in a FOIA enforcement action in general district court, a corporate petitioner may appear through its officer, director or managing agent without the assistance of counsel; (xvii) provides that, in a FOIA enforcement action, the public body shall bear the burden of proof to establish an exemption by a preponderance of the evidence; and (xviii) increases the penalties for FOIA violations from a minimum of $25 to $100, and for a subsequent violation, from a minimum of $250 to $500 and increases the maximum penalty for a subsequent violation from $1,000 to $2,500. The bill contain numerous technical amendments.