Chair Taniguchi, Vice Chair Takamine, members of JGO,
The League of Women voters strongly supports SB 176 which would give the Office of Information Practices the power to enforce its decisions on disputes over access to government records. It would have the right to fine agencies that refuse to provide a request for records which the OIP had decided should be provided the requester. Under this bill, the OIP is to “adopt rules that will set forth uniform standards for issuing fines against agencies failing to comply with the office of information practices' decisions under section 92-F 15.5 (b)”.
Government collects data for many reasons. Through the analysis of the data collected, government can enact policies that will best meet the needs of the state and its people. Most of this information should be available to the public. A Government Accountability Office report says, “Under the Freedom of Information Act, federal agencies must generally provide access to their information, enabling the public to learn about government operations and decisions.” We speak of democracy needing an informed public in order for it to thrive. The public needs the information that often only government can provide, either directly to citizens who ask for it, from the media which has acquired it from some agency, or because of some agency releasing the information directly to the public. When there is evidence or even the perception that government is concealing too much of the information that should be shared, human nature tends to distrust that government.
When people have trust in their government, government can function more creatively and boldly with the public's consent. A willingness to be as transparent as possible also indicates government's trust in the people, and also confidence in its own integrity---fertile ground for true democracyl.
We urge you to pass SB 176. Thank you for this opportunity to testify on this bill.