SPONSOR:   

Sen. Peterson, Reps. Kowalko & B. Short

 

Sen. Connor & Sen. Sorenson

 

DELAWARE STATE SENATE

145th GENERAL ASSEMBLY

 

SENATE BILL NO. 58

 

 

AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 29 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO THE DELAWARE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT.

 


BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE:

 


Section 1.  Amend Section 2504, Title 29 of the Delaware Code by deleting subsection (2) in its entirety, and substituting in lieu thereof the following:

“(2)  Notwithstanding any other laws, to provide legal advice, counsel and services for administrative offices, agencies, departments, boards, commissions and officers of the state government concerning any matter arising in connection with the exercising of their official powers or duties, except those matters arising from petitions to determine violations of Chapter 100 of this title pursuant to § 10005(e), and to publish opinions on the State Department of Justice website.  The courts, counties, and incorporated municipalities are excepted from this chapter;”

Section 2.  Amend Section 10003(a), Title 29 of the Delaware Code by inserting the following after the first sentence of said subsection:

“The appropriate public body is the public body that created or first received the record.  The sharing of records by a public body with other governmental agencies or officials for official purposes shall not be deemed to waive any exception or privilege that otherwise may apply to such records.”

Section 3.  Amend Section 10003, Title 29 of the Delaware Code by inserting new subsections (c), (d), and (e) to read as follows:

“(c) A public body shall not require a person to provide the reason for making a public records request.  Likewise, it shall not deny access to public records based upon the reason or purpose for which a request is made. 

(d)                             If a public body grants access to particular record to any person, it shall grant equal access to that record to all other persons.

(e)                              In every case in which a public records request is made, reasonable effort shall be taken to provide access to the records as promptly as possible under the circumstances; however, absent exceptional circumstances such as the number or volume of records requested, their location, or the need to redact confidential material, a public body shall provide access to public records within no more than ten days of the date of the request (excluding weekends and holidays).”

Section 4.  Amend Section 10004(a), Title 29 of the Delaware Code by adding to the end of said subsection the following:

                            “All public bodies shall make reasonable efforts to accommodate the number of persons who might be expected to attend a meeting.”

            Section 5.  Amend Section 10004(f), Title 29 of the Delaware Code by inserting the following at the end of said subsection:

“A public body shall prepare minutes of a meeting no later than 30 days from the date of the meeting or by the time of the next regularly schedule meeting of that public body, whichever occurs first.”

            Section 6.  Amend Section 10005(e), Title 29 of the Delaware Code by deleting the phrase “20 days” as it appears in said subsection and substituting in lieu thereof the phrase “30 days”.

            Section 7.  Amend Section 10005(f), Title 29 of the Delaware Code by deleting said subsection in its entirety.


SYNOPSIS

This Bill makes various amendments to the Delaware Freedom of Information Act in furtherance of the Act’s original intent to ensure that public business is performed in an open manner and that citizens are provided easy access to public records.  Specifically, this Bill provides the following:

Section 1.  Provides that the Attorney General shall represent administrative offices, agencies, departments, boards, commissions and officers of the State in matters arising from their official powers or duties, except those matters involving petitions to determine violations of the Freedom of Information Act.  It further provides for the electronic publication of State Department of Justice opinions.

Section 2.  Brings consistency to the determination of whether a record that is in the custody of more than one public body is exempt from disclosure by designating the public body that created or first received the record as the body responsible  for determining if it is subject to disclosure.

Section 3.  Clarifies that the purpose for which a document is sought is irrelevant under FOIA.  It further provides a public body cannot discriminate among those who request access to public records.

Section 4.  Ensures that the location for a public meeting is sufficiently large and has sufficient amplification, if necessary, to accommodate large number of citizens when a public body intends to discuss a matter of significant public interest.

Section 5.  Clarifies that a public body must prepare minutes in a timely fashion.

Section 6.  Enlarges the period of time for the Attorney General’s investigation and determination of possible FOIA violations from 20 days to 30 days.  The current 20 day period is no longer practicable given the volume of FOIA complaints processed by the Department of Justice and the complexity of many of the factual and legal issues raised.

Section. 7.  Permits the Attorney General to determine FOIA complaints made against state instrumentalities and officers.

Author:  Senator Peterson