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Monday, October 29, 2007

Upping the Ante in Georgia

From the Associated Press:

A Georgia lawmaker says she wants to make it a felony to deliberately violate the state's Open Records Act.

State Rep. Jill Chambers, R-Atlanta, said she plans to introduce a bill to make the law easier to understand and possibly eliminate some exemptions.

Chambers said she would make "willfully and knowingly violating" the Open Records Act a felony, with a fine of up to $5,000. Under current law violations are a misdemeanor, subject to a $100 fine.

The law requires public officials to allow citizens to view and photocopy most government documents. Exceptions include medical or veterinary records, confidential police and prosecution investigative files, individuals' Social Security numbers, and others.

Chambers said she believes the law is confusingly written and that many violations result from misunderstanding it.

"Just trying to read it and understand it would be a major accomplishment," she said. "It's so hard to find what you need in the law, and then once you do find it, it's so hard to understand.

"There will always be people who flagrantly violate the Open Records Act. But there are also people who violate it because they don't understand it."

Hollie G. Manheimer, executive director of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation, said there is "room for improvement" in the Open Records Act, but her main concern is not that the law confusingly written.

More here.

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