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Attorney General Sam Olens Seeks to Strengthen and Clarify State Sunshine Laws

PRESS ADVISORY

Attorney General Sam Olens Seeks to Strengthen and Clarify State Sunshine Laws

February 28, 2011

Attorney General Sam Olens is continuing his pledge to improve government transparency by asking the General Assembly to strengthen and clarify the State of Georgia’s current Open Records and Open Meetings laws. Representative Jay Powell filed a bill today in the Georgia House of Representatives that rewrites the Open Records Act and the Open Meetings Act, simplifying the current laws and providing new safeguards for both the public and government officials.

“While traveling around the state last year, I heard repeatedly from concerned citizens that our current Open Meetings and Open Records laws are more confusing than constructive,” said Olens. “Georgians deserve a clear, coherent law that enforces good government practices and allows them to hold their elected officials accountable. I believe this legislation makes great strides toward that goal.”

“I have had the pleasure of working with the Attorney General long before either of us was elected to our current positions,” said Powell. “I look forward to joining him in working with local governments, agencies and the press to increase transparency and open government while safeguarding legitimate government interests.”

The bill strengthens the current laws by increasing the maximum penalty for Open Meetings and Open Records violations to $1,000, and adds fines of up to $2,500 for each subsequent offense for one year following. Presently, the maximum fine for Open Records violations is $100 and the maximum fine for Open Meetings violations is $500.

To ensure timely responses to Open Record Act requests, the Open Records portion of the bill reaffirms that requests must be handled in no more than three days and removes many ambiguous provisions that have caused delay in the receipt of public records.

The Open Meetings portion of the bill makes clear that a board cannot evade the law by meeting in subsets that equal less than a quorum. In addition, the bill would require that all votes be taken in public and that minutes be taken of any executive session to ensure compliance with the law.