Access to information must be unfettered
"Freedom of information rights don't mean much if the law can't be enforced. Or if high fees for public records block access. But it's happened in Hawaii. The state Office of Information Practices issued an opinion that Mayor Harris' vision teams must follow the sunshine law. But when the mayor disagreed, OIP was blocked from enforcing the law, though they administer it.
When Environment Hawaii was researching a media story on state plans for an irradiation facility, the Department of Agriculture required a $4,200 up-front payment before releasing the documents. That's too much to pay even for the news media, much less a citizen.
It was only after OIP got involved that the department lowered the access fee to $190. To their credit, this was done voluntarily. But we shouldn't have to rely on voluntary actions to lower exorbitant fees.
Fortunately, there's a bill still alive at the Legislature to fix these problems and uphold the public's right to know. But the House Judiciary Committee must approve the bill by tomorrow's legislative deadline.
Please call Judiciary Committee chairwoman Rep. Sylvia Luke to request a public hearing for SB1551."
President, Citizen Voice
President, Hawaii Pro-Democracy Initiative
Chairwoman, Right To Know Committee
Chairwoman, League of Women Voters Legislative