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Commonwealth's Counties

Freedom of Information Act Bill increases burden on localities


Monday, January 20, 2014

Freedom of Information Act Bill increases burden on localities

VACo members, please contact your delegates to oppose HB 788 (LeMunyon), which would require localities to produce records for out-of-state requesters.

HB 788 is in the House General Laws Committee and will be considered in Subcommittee 2 on January 23.

Currently the law requires localities and other public bodies to only fulfill records requests from citizens of the Commonwealth and media. This has been the law in Virginia since the act’s inception. This “citizens only” provision was challenged by a California business seeking a large number of records from a Virginia county and the case went to the U.S. Supreme Court. In the case of McBurney v. Young, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the Virginia “citizens only” provision was constitutional.

HB 788 (LeMunyon) creates a huge policy change that would mandate localities to respond to any request from any entity no matter where they are located. Many of these out-of-state requests are from commercial data aggregators who then sell the data or use it for other commercial purposes. Countless hours are spent responding to in-state requests under the current code provisions and the full cost of search, collection, review and duplication is never fully recovered. The burden on local governments will be much greater in both staff time and cost if this bill passes.


• This bill increases workload and cost to localities

• The full burden of responding to requests is not recoverable

• It is difficult to collect cost from out-of-state requesters

• Virginia’s current law has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court

• This adds another mandate to already overburdened public entities

House General Laws Committee: Gilbert (Chairman), Albo, Wright, Peace, Anderson, Greason, Knight, LeMunyon, Helsel, Rush, Robinson, Yost, Ramadan, Hodges, Yancey, Ward, Dance, Bulova, Carr, Torian, McQuinn, Kory

House General Laws Subcommittee 2: Anderson (Chairman), LeMunyon, Robinson, Yost, Yancey, Ward, Carr.

VACo Contact: Phyllis A. Errico, CAE

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