Dover, DE – Gov. Jack Markell today signed into law a package of House bills that expand and strengthen Delaware’s Freedom of Information Act. The bills were introduced in early May and passed both chambers of the General Assembly with unanimous votes.
The new laws cover posting of meeting minutes, mailed FOIA requests, publishing of annual reports and education of FOIA coordinators.
The package represents a continuing effort to broaden government transparency and allow citizens to stay up-to-date with their state and local public agencies and more easily access public records and documents.
“In 2009, we brought the General Assembly under the FOIA umbrella, and since then we’ve routinely drafted and passed bills that expand FOIA in various ways,” said Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst, D-Bear. “This effort is ongoing and there’s always more we can do to promote the public’s right to know.”
“A transparent and open government is vital to ensure people have access to the information they deserve to fully participate in our democracy,” said Governor Markell. “We’ve made great progress in the last few years to that end, enacting in 2011 the biggest changes to the FOIA law since it took effect in 1977. This legislation supports our ongoing efforts to make state government more transparent, efficient and responsive to our citizens.”
The package signed into law today consisted of four House bills:
“The idea that in 2014 meeting minutes for a public body might not be available for three, six or even 12 months is just senseless to me,” said Rep. Williams, D-Marshallton. “By posting draft minutes, we are striking a balance between keeping the public informed and giving the group time to write and review accurate minutes to be shared.”
“I’ve heard from towns in my district and throughout Sussex County that they need guidance with FOIA,” said Rep. Atkins, D-Millsboro. “All they want to do is get it right and be consistent. Having a manual with all the information in hand will answer their questions up front and help them follow the law.”
“Even in the Information Age, some people still rely on old-fashioned mail to communicate,” Rep. Johnson said. “This was a simple oversight when the previous bill was drafted, and we are correcting that by making clear that state agencies and public bodies need to accept FOIA requests sent by U.S. mail.”
“In some cases, Delaware does a great job providing information to the public, but can and should do more to make it easier for people to find that information,” said Rep. Osienski, D-Newark. “By putting all annual reports on one central website, it becomes one-stop shopping for the press and public instead of having to hunt around or call state agencies or groups.”
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