Testimony: Protecting Right to Know in Public Schools
Testimony in Opposition to LD 1649: “An Act to Support Local Governments in Responding to Freedom of Access Act Requests”
Senator Carney, Representative Moonen, and the distinguished members of the Committee on Judiciary, my name is Nick Murray and I serve as director of policy for Maine Policy Institute. We are a free market think tank, a nonpartisan, non-profit organization that advocates for individual liberty and economic freedom in Maine. Thank you for the opportunity to testify on LD 1649.
If passed, public transparency under LD 1649 would be sorely diminished. Sadly, it would increase the speed at which Mainers are losing access to their government, as we have been moving in the wrong direction of press freedom and transparency.
Unfortunately, Maine Policy Institute’s experience with FOAA over the last several years with the Mills administration has been markedly different from our interactions with that of former governors John Baldacci and Paul LePage.
Some of our requests have seemingly been ignored by the current administration. Two filed in October 2021 remain unfilled today. They concern a so-called “advocacy journalist” policy used to restrict select journalists from CDC briefings in October 2021.
LD 1649 would add a new provision at §408-A, sub-§13 requiring that a school employee be notified if they have been subject to a FOAA request. Why should public school employees be afforded this special privilege in Maine law? The only other instances requiring notification in Title 1 refer to the state’s duty to report to the public.
The bill also stipulates that requesters lose the courtesy of not being charged the first two hours of staff time to fulfill their request, starting at just their second request in that calendar year. This needless provision would effectively punish Mainers who choose to be active in their government.
Because the state serves the people, or at least it should, this committee should quickly dispense with this bill. It would put the public farther away from local public servants and the truth.
Please deem LD 1649 “Ought Not To Pass,” and instead strengthen the public’s right to hold public servants accountable. Thank you for your time and consideration.