Nebraska’s Open Records Act is an important safeguard for ordinary Nebraskans that helps to ensure that our government remains transparent, accountable and accessible. Indeed, it is important for government agencies to comply with requests to view public records with reasonable speed and at reasonable cost.
That is why Appleseed is supporting LB 363, a bill introduced by Senator Bill Avery, that puts a stop to excessive and arbitrary fees charged to collect and print public records. The bill advanced to the second round of debate in the Legislature Monday.
In our work, Appleseed has routinely faced barriers to receiving public records. We’ve been told the cost for collecting documents would run into the tens of thousands – and sometimes even hundreds of thousands – of dollars. That cost could be discouraging to other Nebraskans who want information they are legally entitled to about how their government is operating.
We acknowledge the need to charge a fair and reasonable cost for the time spent compiling public documents, but high prices sometimes charged by agencies can be a barrier for many Nebraskans to ensure they are being served by good government. The provisions in LB 363 will reduce the confusion about when a fee can be charged for the production of a public document and how much the fee can be.
“The salvation of the state is the watchfulness of the citizens,” are the words chiseled in stone on the Nebraska State Capitol. Appleseed feels the spirit of those words lies in LB 363, which will lead to more transparent and accountable government action.