Opinion

Improving the public’s right to know

An editorial from the Charleston Daily Mail 

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The nature of the Freedom of Information Act is to ensure that government is using its resources without waste, corruption or wrongdoing.

The only way to find out is through curiosity, attention and persistence.

Public access to what West Virginia’s government is doing took an important step forward this week. Gov. Earl Ray Tomlin signed the Freedom of Information Act billpassed by the Legislature during the 2015 session.

The new law opens access to the workings of government in a couple of important ways.

One is, it eliminates the option of government agencies to charge for their work to look up information. Charges will be limited just to the cost of reproducing material.

Another is a new database to be maintained by the Secretary of State that will track the nature of the request, the response, the time frame on response and the charge for the response. This will help those making the request keep track of where it stands. That should mean fewer frustrating black holes for those making requests. It should also help show who may be abusing the system.

 “We can have a whole picture of what exemptions are being cited by which agencies,” said House Speaker Tim Armstead, a key supporter…

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