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Saturday, March 15, 2008

A Nice AP Summary of the State of E-Mail Access

housands of e-mails zip through state computers every day, but Rhode Islanders live in one of at least seven states where residents cannot see what their elected officials are reading and writing in cyberspace.

more stories like this

The state's open records law was amended in 1998 to define e-mail as a public record subject to disclosure just like paper documents. But lawmakers kept a massive loophole in the Access to Public Records Act that keeps private all the correspondence of elected officials, whether electronic or paper.

A review by The Associated Press found that e-mails for governors in at least six other states -- Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan and South Dakota -- are officially exempt from disclosure under state open records laws. But even in the remaining states, access to e-mail is generally limited.

Open government groups in Rhode Island have proposed amendments to the open records law requiring government officials to respond to information requests faster and increasing the penalties for agencies that refuse to comply. So far, no one has suggested loosening the provision blocking government e-mails and letters from public view -- a provision that still rankles some lawmakers and open government advocates.

More here.

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