Federal FOIA Needs Strengthening, Says Missouri A.G.

By: (AP) The federal Freedom of Information of Act fails to guarantee quick and easy access to government records and needs an overhaul to keep pace with the open-records laws of many states, Missouri's top prosecutor said.

"We continue to attempt to use FOIA to get documents and information, and it continues to be a headache and a pain in the neck," Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon said.

Missouri updated its so-called Sunshine Law last year, increasing potential fines to $5,000, limiting copying charges to 10 cents a page, and specifically making most government e-mails open records.

Unchanged was a provision requiring officials to respond to a request within three business days.

The 1966 federal law, by comparison, requires a response within 20 business days, has no specific cap on copying charges, and carries no fines.

Arkansas, Georgia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia have also acted in recent years to make public records and meetings more accessible, experts said.

"If you want to look at progress in freedom of information, you look to the states, not the feds," said Charles Davis, executive director of the Freedom of Information Center at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Nixon said he has yet to receive a response from the Environmental Protection Agency to a February request for information about a former industrial plant in St. Louis. An EPA spokeswoman said Wednesday she could not immediately locate any information about the request.


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