Testimony: Reforming Maine’s Freedom of Access Law
Testimony in Support of LD 1203: “An Act to Clarify Deadlines in the Freedom of Access Act and Disclosure Provisions in the Intelligence and Investigative Record Information Act”
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 1203.
The last review of state freedom of access laws by the National Freedom of Information Coalition (NFOIC) in 2017 gave Maine just 6.5 points out of 16 total possible points: an “F” grade. Maine’s law has changed very little since then.
We are pleased to see that commonsense Freedom of Access Act (FOAA) reform has bipartisan support in this legislature. The problems in Maine’s law are apparent to journalists and observers across the political spectrum, and in our experience, have only gotten worse in the last four years.
In Maine Policy Institute’s 20-plus years of experience submitting FOAA requests, state compliance has never been as poor as it is today. Rarely did we struggle to get information from the government under the Baldacci or LePage administrations. It almost seems as if government offices have been instructed by Gov. Mills to slow-walk the process and price certain requestors out of the information they seek.
In the last few years, the FOAA process has been unnavigable. Routine requests that should take a matter of weeks instead take several months or more. The cost estimates have spiraled out of control. The law has no teeth.
Our FOAA law, as it stands today, makes it far too easy for bureaucrats to obfuscate their communications and activities. It empowers the government to sit on state secrets – not citizens to uncover them – and is in desperate need of immediate reform.
The 30-day limitation proposed in this bill is only for the delivery of a time and cost estimate of each request – it is still nonbinding. Of all the issues with FOAA, LD 1203 offers a small change, but one that is basic to ensure some level of public access. This committee will likely face far more ambitious proposals this session; these should also be given serious consideration.
Please deem LD 1203 “Ought To Pass” and provide just a little more government accountability to the people and their right to know. Thank you for your time and consideration.