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The original item was published from 2/18/2020 2:32:29 PM to 3/19/2020 12:00:02 AM.

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MML eBulletin

Posted on: February 18, 2020

[ARCHIVED] MML Testifies on Public Information Act Bills


On the 50-year birthday of the Maryland Public Information Act (MPIA), February 11, MML staff testified on three bills that would have made signification changes to the Act.
The League Supported House Bill 501 with amendments, which would expand the Public Information Act Compliance Board’s authority with the goal of creating a quicker and cheaper alternative to settling disputes than currently exists in Maryland. The sponsor, Delegate Lierman, has largely welcomed our amendments which are mostly technical. Staff stressed ongoing concerns about sharing documents that have been denied under existing exemptions with the Compliance Board and was joined by representatives from the Municipal Clerks Association and Municipal Attorneys Association to share perspective from those working most closely with the MPIA.
MML staff also testified in opposition to two MPIA bills that afternoon, House Bill 42 (Del. Guyton) and House Bill 717 (Del. Carr). HB 42 would drastically shorten the time for municipalities to respond to and fulfill Public Information Act requests from the current 30-day compliance period to just seven, with an initial response for more time or for a denial of inspection reduced from ten days to five. HB 717 would have reopened a part of a loophole that allowed individuals and companies to mass-collect residents’ personal contact information -- such as phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and physical addresses -- which was closed by MML’s priority legislation in 2018.
The following day, Wednesday, February 12, MML submitted written testimony on another MPIA bill, House Bill 401 (Del. Barron) that would so vaguely define "public interest" and a "representative of news media" that anyone could ask for and MUST receive a waiver if one claims the will use the information to submit and article to a website or start a blog. The bill completely ignores the costs associated with finding, redacting, and producing documents and would provide no incentive for requesters to limit the scope of their requests.
On Thursday, staff was back in the hearing room, this time before the Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee to testifying on HB 502’s crossfile, Senate Bill 590. Staff and MML affiliate representatives  again relayed the concerns we have about liability and the workload on smaller jurisdictions, while conveying support for the general concept.
If you have any questions about these bills, please contact Justin Fiore, Government Relations Manager, at or (410) 295-9100.

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