Support public records — and journalism

There’s some important legislation in the pipeline that could improve the Freedom of Information Act, both at the federal level and here in Michigan.

Here in Michigan, it’s HB 4001, which only suffered 8 no votes when it passed the House earlier this year. Now it’s sitting in the Senate, waiting for a vote. Our friends at the Michigan Coalition for Open Government had an op-ed in Bridge Magazine recently advocating for a vote, and described what the bill would do, including standardizing copying charges and improving the appeals process.

And at the federal level, it’s the FOIA Improvement Act, which recently passed muster at the Senate committee level. National SPJ is urging folks to contact their senators to pass the measure. According to National SPJ, the bill would put in writing that there is a presumption of openness when it comes to records, limit one of the oft-used exemptions and ensure that search-and-copy fees can’t be charged if agencies miss their deadlines.

The urgency here is that session ends for Congress and the Michigan Legislature in a few weeks, which means these bills go away if they’re not approved. Spread the word, contact a legislator and advocate for public records and the First Amendment.