FOIA Bills Moving Forward

March 3, 2022

HB 307 (Freitas) Virginia Freedom of Information Act; estimated charges for records. Provides that a public body subject to the Virginia Freedom of Information Act shall make all reasonable efforts to supply records requested by a citizen at the lowest possible cost. The bill also requires a public body, prior to conducting a search for records, to notify the requester in writing of the public body’s right to make reasonable charges not to exceed its actual cost incurred in accessing, duplicating, supplying, or searching for requested records and inquire of the requester whether he would like to request a cost estimate in advance of the supplying of the requested records. A senate amendment does not allow charges for scholastic records or property records requested by the owner of the property that is the subject of such records.

HB 150 (March) Virginia Freedom of Information Act; local public bodies to post meeting minutes on its website. This bill has passed both chambers and requires localities to post their minutes on their website if they have a website within seven working days of finance approval of the minutes. If there is no website, copies must be available at a prominent location as stated in the bill.

HB 444 (Bennett-Parker) FOIA; meetings conducted by electronic communication means; situations other than declared states of emergency. This helpful bill sets out the parameters for public bodies to hold electronic meetings outside of the state of emergency when following the rules as set out in the bill.  VACo, VML, the Virginia Press Association and the Coalition for Open Government worked with the patron and supported this consensus bill. HB 444 amends existing provisions concerning electronic meetings by keeping the provisions for electronic meetings held in response to declared states of emergency, repealing the provisions that are specific to regional and state public bodies. The bill also allows public bodies to conduct all-virtual public meetings where all of the members who participate do so remotely and that the public may access through electronic communications means where a public body has passed a policy allowing such meetings and also provides that only 2 meetings or 25% of meetings annually (whichever is greater) may be virtual. Please contact your Senators to support this bill as it heads to the Senate floor.

VACo Contact: Phyllis Errico, Esq., CAE

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