Pricey Harrison

Friday, August 19, 2005

Open Records: Let The Sun Shine In

The State House voted unanimously to approve legislation that ensures government lawyers will not have to reveal all of their strategies before a trial, and allows the public to challenge the protection of the records under the provision. Senate Bill 856, which returns to the Senate for concurrence, also ensures that judges have discretion when deciding whether to award attorney's fees in such cases. Judges could consider whether the government agency had “substantial justification” to deny access to public records or that circumstances made the award of attorney’s fees “unjust.” Said Rep. Joe Hackney, D-Orange: “It creates a presumption in favor of the plaintiff in terms of getting attorney's fees instead of the other way around, which is the way it was before.”

The House also approved House Bill 393, which would require the N.C. Department of Commerce to release public records of its negotiations with companies within 25 days after a plant or project is announced. It would also require local governments to provide records once a specific location for a project is announced. “This is a good-government bill that will provide the information and sunshine that the public wants and deserves about economic-incentive programs in our state,” said Rep. Jennifer Weiss, D-Wake.

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