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An Act to amend and reenact 2.2-3707 and 30-179 of the Code of Virginia and to amend the Code of Virginia by adding a section numbered 2.2-3704.1, relating to the Freedom of Information Act; posting by certain state public bodies; minutes.
[H 358]
Approved April 12, 2004

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of Virginia:

1. That 2.2-3707 and 30-179 of the Code of Virginia are amended and reenacted, and that the Code of Virginia is amended by adding a section numbered 2.2-3704.1 as follows:

2.2-3704.1. Posting of notice of rights and responsibilities by state public bodies; assistance by the Freedom of Information Advisory Council.

A. All state public bodies created in the executive branch of state government and subject to the provisions of this chapter shall make available the following information to the public upon request and shall post such information on the Internet:

1. A plain English explanation of the rights of a requester under this chapter, the procedures to obtain public records from the public body, and the responsibilities of the public body in complying with this chapter. For purposes of this subdivision "plain English" means written in nontechnical, readily understandable language using words of common everyday usage and avoiding legal terms and phrases or other terms and words of art whose usage or special meaning primarily is limited to a particular field or profession;

2. Contact information for the person designated by the public body to (i) assist a requester in making a request for records or (ii) respond to requests for public records; and

3. Any policy the public body has concerning the type of public records it routinely withholds from release as permitted by this chapter.

B. The Freedom of Information Advisory Council, created pursuant to 30-178, shall assist in the development and implementation of the provisions of subsection A, upon request.

2.2-3707. Meetings to be public; notice of meetings; recordings; minutes.

A. All meetings of public bodies shall be open, except as provided in 2.2-3711.

B. No meeting shall be conducted through telephonic, video, electronic or other communication means where the members are not physically assembled to discuss or transact public business, except as provided in 2.2-3708, 2.2-3709 or as may be specifically provided in Title 54.1 for the summary suspension of professional licenses.

C. Every public body shall give notice of the date, time, and location of its meetings by placing the notice in a prominent public location at which notices are regularly posted and in the office of the clerk of the public body, or in the case of a public body that has no clerk, in the office of the chief administrator. Publication of meeting notices by electronic means shall be encouraged. The notice shall be posted at least three working days prior to the meeting. Notices for meetings of state public bodies on which there is at least one member appointed by the Governor shall state whether or not public comment will be received at the meeting and, if so, the approximate point during the meeting when public comment will be received.

D. Notice, reasonable under the circumstance, of special or emergency meetings shall be given contemporaneously with the notice provided members of the public body conducting the meeting.

E. Any person may annually file a written request for notification with a public body. The request shall include the requester's name, address, zip code, daytime telephone number, electronic mail address, if available, and organization, if any. The public body receiving such request shall provide notice of all meetings directly to each such person. Without objection by the person, the public body may provide electronic notice of all meetings in response to such requests.

F. At least one copy of all agenda packets and, unless exempt, all materials furnished to members of a public body for a meeting shall be made available for public inspection at the same time such documents are furnished to the members of the public body.

G. Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to prohibit the gathering or attendance of two or more members of a public body (i) at any place or function where no part of the purpose of such gathering or attendance is the discussion or transaction of any public business, and such gathering or attendance was not called or prearranged with any purpose of discussing or transacting any business of the public body or (ii) at a public forum, candidate appearance, or debate, the purpose of which is to inform the electorate and not to transact public business or to hold discussions relating to the transaction of public business, even though the performance of the members individually or collectively in the conduct of public business may be a topic of discussion or debate at such public meeting. The notice provisions of this chapter shall not apply to informal meetings or gatherings of the members of the General Assembly.

H. Any person may photograph, film, record or otherwise reproduce any portion of a meeting required to be open. The public body conducting the meeting may adopt rules governing the placement and use of equipment necessary for broadcasting, photographing, filming or recording a meeting to prevent interference with the proceedings.

I. Minutes shall be recorded at all open meetings. However, minutes shall not be required to be taken at deliberations of (i) standing and other committees of the General Assembly, (ii) legislative interim study commissions and committees, including the Virginia Code Commission, (iii) study committees or commissions appointed by the Governor, or (iv) study commissions or study committees, or any other committees or subcommittees appointed by the governing bodies or school boards of counties, cities and towns, except where the membership of any such commission, committee or subcommittee includes a majority of the governing body of the county, city or town or school board.

Minutes, including draft minutes, and all other records of open meetings, including audio or audio/visual records shall be deemed public records and subject to the provisions of this chapter. Audio or audio/visual records of open meetings shall be public records that shall be produced in accordance with 2.2-3704.

Minutes shall include, but are not limited to, (i) the date, time and location of the meeting, (ii) the members of the public body recorded as present and absent, and (iii) a summary of the discussion on matters proposed, deliberated or decided, and a record of any votes taken.

30-179. Powers and duties of the Council.

The Council shall:

1. Furnish, upon request, advisory opinions or guidelines, and other appropriate information regarding the Freedom of Information Act ( 2.2-3700 et seq.) to any person or agency of state or local government, in an expeditious manner;

2. Conduct training seminars and educational programs for the members and staff of public bodies and other interested persons on the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act ( 2.2-3700 et seq.);

3. Publish such educational materials as it deems appropriate on the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act ( 2.2-3700 et seq.);

4. Request from any agency of state or local government such assistance, services and information as will enable the Council to effectively carry out its responsibilities. Information provided to the Council by an agency of state or local government shall not be released to any other party unless authorized by such agency; and

5. Assist in the development and implementation of the provisions of 2.2-3704.1; and

6. Report annually on or before December 1 of each year on its activities and findings regarding the Freedom of Information Act, including recommendations for changes in the law, to the Governor and the General Assembly.