HB397 - Open Meetings Act Revision (Effective Upon Governor's Signature)

HB397 - Open Meetings Act Revision (Effective Upon Governor's Signature)

House Bill 397
Open Meetings Act Revision
Effective date: Became effective upon Governor’s signature

This legislation simplifies the law regarding open meetings and open records by eliminating ambiguities and incorporating judicial interpretations of the law. This legislation clarifies the definition of a “meeting” and requires that all final votes be taken in an open session. If an action is taken during an illegal meeting, a suit to void that action may be brought within six months. The use of meetings by telephone for local governments is limited. Likewise, this legislation defines an “executive session” as a portion of meetings lawfully closed to the public.

Under the open records provisions, data and data fields are now considered to be “records.” An agency may designate an open records officer to whom requests should be directed. Fees for copying records are reduced from $.25 per page to $.10 per page. Requests for records may be oral or written, but only written requests are subject to criminal and civil enforcement proceedings and penalties.

The exemptions from disclosure are clarified. The time period during which records related to the hiring of a president of a unit of the University System of Georgia must be available to the public is shortened from 14 days to 5 days. The attorney-client privilege and work product is broadened. New exemptions include records pertaining to the rating plans or proprietary information used to administer liability insurance or self-insurance to any agency, as well as Department of Economic Development documents pertaining to economic development projects. The economic development projects are exempt only until the project is secured by a binding commitment. Finally, records related to a training program, disclosing an economic development project prior to a binding commitment having been secured, are exempt.

Civil and criminal penalties are imposed for violations of the open meetings and open records acts.

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