A state House subcommitee approved a bill aimed at strengthening the state’s open records laws Thursday.
Sponsored by state Rep. Bill Taylor, R-Aiken, the bill seeks to amend the state’s Freedom of Information Act – the law regulating public records – to curb excessive fees charged those seeking records and ensure those requests are filled in a timely manner.
The bill calls for more specific rules about what public bodies can charge for gathering and providing public documents. It also sets clear time frames for fulfilling public records requests.
Public bodies currently are required to tell those requesting records within 15 business days whether they will provide the documents. But the existing state law says little about how much those agencies can charge to fulfill a request and nothing about when a public body must produce the records.
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The House judiciary subcommittee approved the proposal with some changes to how much public bodies can charge for providing documents. A previous proposal would have prohibited public agencies for charging for staff time spent searching and preparing documents.
Having heard from large public agencies that deal with numerous requests, the panel approved a change that would allow public bodies to charge for staff time.