When West Virginia House Minority Leader Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, spoke at the West Virginia Press Association’s annual legislative breakfast last week he said West Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act law needed to be more open to allow citizens and journalists even more access to documents from public bodies.
Being true to his word, Armstead introduced a bill meant to make internal letters and memos from government bodies available to members of the public, unless the documents fall under another exemption of the state’s Freedom of Information Act law.
Great news, right? More transparency with public records is always a good idea.
Then, on Tuesday, House Bill 2911 was introduced. It’s sponsored by 11 House Delegates (Folk, Householder, Frich, Kump, Faircloth, Lynch, Williams, Butler, Cooper, Cadle and Shott) and has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee.
Here is a link to the bill: http://www.legis.state.wv.us/Bill_Status/bills_text.cfm?billdoc=hb2911%20intr.htm&yr=2013&sesstype=RS&i=2911
It seeks an exemption to the Freedom of Information Act for all records pertaining to the issuance, renewal, expiration, suspension or revocation of a license to carry a concealed weapon. It carries the following note: “The purpose of this bill is to exempt records of concealed weapon license applications and issuance from disclosure under the West Virginia Freedom of Information Act.”
Coal Valley News, Civitas Media and the West Virginia Press Association oppose such exemptions and have informed our state Legislators of our position.
Hiding public records is never a good idea. Hiding any public information of this nature goes against the very reason the Freedom of Information Act law was enacted in the first place.
We are urging members of the public contact your local House of Delegates members and let them know you oppose hiding more public records of any kind.
We believe the effective functioning of our constitutional democracy depends upon the participation in public life of a citizenry that is well informed. For nearly four decades, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) has provided an important means through which the public can obtain information regarding the activities of public agencies.
For more information about the Freedom of Information Act or to find out how to make a FOIA request, visit www.foia.gov online.
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