Tuesday, February 09, 2010
Virginia Bill to Curtail FOIA Harassment is Threat to Transparency
Legislation proposed by former newspaper editor and Virginia state delegate R. Lee Ware Jr. (R-Powhatan) to protect public bodies from FOIA harassment is headed nowhere fast. The proposed bill would allow any public body in the state to petition a court for relief from a person deemed to be abusing rights granted under FOIA.
Powhatan County's attorney and the county board of supervisors urged the bill after being receiving 25 FOIA requests from one individual last year relating to utility projects in the county.
The bill has now been sent to the Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council for review, which means it will be at least a year before the legislature considers the measure again.
Open records advocates say the proposed law would crush the spirit of FOIA because it could allow the government to stymie requests with threats of litigation.