Report Recommends FOIA Review

The State of Michigan Law Revision Commission is considering a report that recommends Legislative review of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The report does not include any recommended changes to the law, but, suggests the Legislature consider new definitions in the act based on recent court rulings. Among the language reviewed in the report, the law does not include as public bodies, committees formed by local governments, nor does it include elected local officials. The report notes that the law does not include electronic documents as “writing.” The report recommends the Legislature consider other forms of storage, such as flash drives, as legitimate ways to return records.

The law also appears to use “granted” and “fulfilled” interchangeably, though the Court of Appeals ruled last year that they are not synonymous and that an agency must actually produce the requested records in the time allowed, not merely approve the FOIA request. If an agency does not comply and a court finds there was bad faith, the law provides for fines between $2,500 and $7,500.  However, that does not indicate what an “occurrence” means and how that determines how many times a fine can be imposed. The board also declined to issue an opinion on whether the Legislature should create an entity to monitor access to records, but says the Legislature should review the issue.

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