Friday, March 21, 2014

FOIA Friday: Michigan Legislature considers lowering FOIA fees with HB 4001 of 2013

The Michigan House of Representatives passed a bill on March 20, 2014, HB 4001 of 2013, which would change the Michigan FOIA laws to reduce FOIA costs for requesters. The legislation now goes to the Michigan Senate for consideration.

According the the House legislative analysis, the bill would have these impacts on fees, tending in all cases to reduce the copying costs for paper records when requested:

  • A public body could not charge more than 10 cents a page when copying a public record. 
  • Also, a public body would have to permit and would be prohibited from charging a fee for copying during an on-site inspection of public records, unless the requestor asked the public body to provide the copies or used the public body's copying equipment.
  • If a public body does not deny a request for records but fails to make the requested records available for inspection or to provide a copy of the requested records within the deadline, then the fee that can be charged would be reduced by 20 percent of the original fee each day after the deadline that the record or copy is not made available.  A public body could not charge a fee for a record produced more than five days after the deadline.
  • If a public body imposed a fee in excess of that permitted, the requestor could submit a written appeal for a reduction in the fee, in the same way that the requestor can currently appeal a denial of all or a portion of a request.
Most importantly for frequent FOIA filers who consider taking a recalcitrant public body to court, the bill would eliminate a provision that allows a public body to recover attorney's fees. This provision in the current law discourages the impecunious FOIA requester from going to court even if they have pro bono legal representation, because there could be substantial costs if they lose.

The analysis notes dryly that to the extent that the provisions of the bill lower FOIA request charges, the requestor would realize a corresponding positive fiscal impact.

No comments:

Post a Comment