Effective January 1, 2020, New Hampshire will no longer charge you a fee to access most public records requested under 91a, the State’s Right to Know Law.
This important change removes a financial barrier to public access and opens a document review.
For years, state and local officials have been allowed to charge “reasonable” fees for access to public records. It served, when needed, as a form of information gentrification. Agencies, towns, boards, clerks, and committees could use that loophole to make public documents unaffordable. HB286 amends that.
If a computer, photocopying machine, or other device maintained for use by a public body or agency is used by the public body or agency to copy the governmental record requested, the person requesting the copy may be charged the actual cost of providing the copy, which cost may be collected by the public body or agency. No cost or fee shall be charged for the inspection or delivery, without copying, of governmental records, whether in paper, electronic, or other form. Nothing in this section shall exempt any person from paying fees otherwise established by law for obtaining copies of governmental records or documents, but if such fee is established for the copy, no additional costs or fees shall be charged.
If the only way for you to review the requested records is the creation of printed copies (for redaction), they can charge for the cost of those copies. They cannot charge you for the labor required to locate the information or print the copies.
Access to or copies of digital records (not requiring redaction) cost nothing. Though, you’d do well to arrive with a new thumb drive (in the unopened package) if you are hoping to take them with you. For security reasons. Note that this may not be required so check with your point of contact.
In any case, the cost of government transparency in New Hampshire just went down.
| David Saad – RTKNH