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The open government coalition ACCESS/RI — of which the New England First Amendment Coalition is a member — submitted testimony today on proposed regulations revising the Rhode Island Dept. of Administration’s regulations governing compliance with the state’s Access to Public Records Act.
The coalition expressed concern about several proposed changes, including one that would overemphasize the role of privacy in determining if access to records should be granted.
“While particular provisions of the statute require a balancing of interests in determining the availability of certain information, there remains a presumption of openness,” the groups explained. “That needs to be emphasized, and it is something that this section of the Rules fails to capture. It is ‘unwarranted’ invasions of privacy that portions of APRA are designed to protect, not privacy in general.”
Other problematic regulation changes, the groups wrote, involve the procedure for requesting public records and when the department may charge a fee for those records. The full comments can be read here.
ACCESS/Rhode Island is a coalition of non-profit organizations and First Amendment advocates in the Rhode Island dedicated to ensuring government at all levels be accessible to the public. Founded in 1996, ACCESS/RI stands for “All Citizens Committed to Ending Secrecy within our State.” Member organizations include the Rhode Island Press Association, the ACLU of Rhode Island, Common Cause Rhode Island, the Rhode Island League of Women Voters, and NEFAC, along with journalism professors, television journalists and other First Amendment advocates.
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.
Major Supporters of NEFAC for this year include the Barr Foundation, The Providence Journal Charitable Legacy Fund, The Robertson Foundation, Lois Howe McClure, The Boston Globe and Boston University. Celebration Supporters include The Hartford Courant and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.