House Passes Open Records Bill

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(Host) The House has passed a bill that updates Vermont’s public records law. The bill makes it easier for people who are denied access to records to collect their attorneys’ fees if they sue for the documents and win in court. 

Barre Republican Thomas Koch opposed the provision on attorneys’ fees. He says small towns may have legitimate reasons to keep records secret. But Koch said if they lose in court, the towns could face costly litigation.

(Koch) "And I don’t think that’s good public policy that when you give people responsibility – and then tell them at the risk of having to pay attorneys fees, they should not defend their responsibilities."

(Host) But Windsor Democrat Donna Sweaney defended the bill. Sweaney chairs the House Government Operations Committee, which she says carefully studied the open records issue.

(Sweaney) "Your Government Operations Committee spent months and hours working on this bill and what we came up with what we found to be a good balance to protect transparency in government – open government."

(Host) The House defeated various amendments to change the attorneys’ fees provision of the bill. The legislation now goes to the Senate.

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