NEFAC Calls N.H. Public Records Proposal ‘Monumental Step in Wrong Direction’

CONTACT Justin Silverman | 774.244.2365 |

Note: NEFAC and other advocates followed up with the New Hampshire House Judiciary Committee on Jan. 18 to express concerns about an amendment proposed for HB 1002. 


The New England First Amendment Coalition called on New Hampshire legislators today to reject a proposal that could significantly increase fees for public records.

The proposal “is a monumental step in the wrong direction that, if enacted, will discourage and prevent the citizenry of New Hampshire from gaining access to public records,” explained NEFAC President Gregory V. Sullivan in a Jan. 16 statement to the state’s House Judiciary Committee.

HB 1002 would allow agencies to charge record requesters up to $25 an hour for any time searching, retrieving, duplicating, redacting or otherwise making records available beyond 10 hours.

The purpose of New Hampshire’s Right to Know Law, Sullivan wrote, is to provide “both the greatest possible public access to the actions, discussions and records of all public bodies, and their accountability to the people.” Passage of HB 1002, however, would ensure the opposite result.

On behalf of NEFAC, Sullivan also addressed HB 1696 which allows — but does not require — agencies to provide records in electronic format. While an improvement to the current law, this change is not sufficient. Instead, Sullivan wrote, the law should be read:

Public bodies and agencies shall accept governmental record requests by electronic means and shall provide such records electronically whenever said records are stored in an electronic format, without requiring the physical appearance of the citizen making the request.

“That language will reflect today’s communications environment,” Sullivan wrote “and will provide for more efficient and effective provision of the goals of R.S.A. 91-A.”

NEFAC is the region’s leading advocate for the First Amendment and the public’s right to know about government. All coalition briefs, advocacy letters and statements can be found here.

NEFAC was formed in 2006 to advance and protect the Five Freedoms of the First Amendment, including the principle of the public’s right to know. We’re a broad-based organization of people who believe in the power of an informed democratic society. Our members include lawyers, journalists, historians, academics and private citizens.

Our coalition is funded through contributions made by those who value the First Amendment and who strive to keep government accountable. Please make a donation here.

NEFAC is supported by the Estate of Gloria Negri. Additional funding is provided by Leadership Circle donors including the Rhode Island Foundation, The Boston Globe, Paul and Ann Sagan, and the Robertson Foundation. Major Supporters of NEFAC’s work are Hearst Connecticut Media Group, Boston University, the Academy of New England Journalists, the Society of Professional Journalists Foundation, Genie Gannett for the First Amendment Museum, Linda Pizzuti Henry, the Champa Charitable Foundation Fund, Connecticut Public and WBUR-Boston.