Under new legislation, which opens some legislative records, a court would not handle the appeals of refused documents as it is done under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Instead, a bipartisan board appointed by the House Speaker and Senate Majority Leader would have the final say on any appeal. The legislation introduced in the House creates the Legislative Open Records Act (LORA), which mirrors much of the Freedom of Information Act. One of the key differences is the appeals process.
Under FOIA, a requester who was denied documents can take his or her appeal to court, where a public body can be fined or a person can be held in contempt for not complying with a judge’s order to release documents. Under LORA, the Legislative Council, which is a bipartisan and bicameral board made up of six appointees each from the Senate majority leader and the House speaker, with two required to be of the minority party, would handle the appeals.
Lawmakers crafting the proposal have said FOIA would be unenforceable if it were applied to the Legislature. The Council would be required to recommend disciplinary action to the speaker or Senate majority leader if it finds LORA was arbitrarily and capriciously violated. The council would also be required to publicly post those recommendations on its website. It would be up to the speaker or majority leader to move forward with the recommendations.