When it comes to public information, some public bodies are quick to get it right. They are quick to respond to requests and have usually stepped forward with the information even before it was asked for.
Some, however, are not quite as forthcoming.
Some agencies are still hiding in the dark. Some for fear of what the public will ask and some in fear because they are not keeping with good business practices.
So they delay valid requests, charge exorbitant prices or they deny the requests all together.
No matter the reason, laws are in place to protect residents and to ensure they are allowed to view and have copies of certain information from government.
However, once a request is denied by a public body, residents currently only have one option and that is to hire a lawyer and appeal to circuit court - a costly endeavor to say the least.
The current Freedom of Information Act spells out what is public information and what an agency may keep behind closed doors to protect sensitive information.
But it does not go far enough.
Just last week, a subcommittee of the S.C. House Judiciary Committee gave its approval of a bill that is intending to stop abuses now seen of the current FOIA.
Keeping the costs down to residents is one of the major improvements to the new legislation as it would keep public bodies from charging more than it costs to actually copy the records requested.
Last year, the House approved a bill with similar references but the bill died in the Senate.
The bill, by Rep. Bill Taylor, R- Aiken, would require faster responses to FOI requests made by residents.
The new bill also sets up a new appeal process through the Administrative Law Court which will make appealing decisions made by local public bodies easier and less costly for residents who feel they have been denied public information.
From the top of state government down to each local official, public information should be just that - public.
It is the people's business government bodies are conducting. It is their tax dollars that are being spent. Shouldn't they be allowed access?
We urge those of the Legislature to get on board and support this new bill.
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