Breen backs bill to improve Freedom of Access Act in Maine
AUGUSTA — Sen. Cathy Breen, D-Falmouth, testified in support of a bill to improve government accountability and transparency on Wednesday. LD 1575, “An Act To Improve the Freedom of Access Laws of Maine,” was the subject of a public hearing before the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee.
“An honest, transparent government is vital to a functioning democracy,” said Sen. Breen. “Our Freedom of Access laws, as they stand now, are toothless and lack clear language. They allow unscrupulous officials to dodge questions from the public and the free press.”
LD 1575 would set a deadline of 30 days for when government and public offices must respond and offer updates to requests for information under the Freedom of Access Act. If a request for information cannot be fulfilled by the deadline, the office must provide an explanation of why and a new deadline for when the request can be fulfilled. Further, the bill requires that those requesting public information be specific about what content they seek to access. LD 1575 also directs the Right To Know Advisory Committee to examine challenges to ensuring the public has access to public information, and recommend any needed updates or adjustments.
Sen. Breen has been a leader in this arena, shepherding the state’s first municipal email policy through its adoption by the Town of Falmouth in 2007. This policy prohibits any email communications among town boards and committees that would violate the spirit of Maine’s open meetings laws.
Sen. Breen is a mandatory cosponsor on LD 1575 because similar legislation she submitted this session was merged with this bill. She has proposed an amendment to the bill that would standardize the cost of photocopies to ten cents each and states that no cost will be charged for electronic transmission of electronic information.
The bill faces further action in the committee and votes in the Maine Senate and House.