New Hampshire Right to Know Law

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The Right to Know Law is a series of statutes designed to guarantee that the public has access to public records of governmental bodies in New Hampshire.

The New Hampshire Open Meetings Law legislates the methods by which public meetings are conducted.

To learn more about how to make a public records request in this state, please see New Hampshire FOIA procedures.

Relevant legal cases

See also: Court cases with an impact on state FOIA and New Hampshire sunshine lawsuits

Here is a list of relevant lawsuits in New Hampshire (cases are listed alphabetically; to order them by year, please click the icon to the right of the "year" heading).


Lawsuit Year
Bradbury v. Shaw 1976
Professional Firefighters of N.H. v. Healthtrust Inc. 2004
Union Leader Corporation v. NH Housing Finance Authority 1997


Proposed changes

2011

See also: Proposed reforms in state sunshine laws, 2011


We do not currently have any legislation for New Hampshire in 2011.


2010

See also: Proposed reforms in state sunshine laws, 2010


We have no current bill pages for New Hampshire from 2010. This may be due to incomplete research.


New Hampshire's transparency report card

A 2008 study, BGA - Alper Integrity Index, conducted by the Better Government Association and sponsored by Alper Services, ranked New Hampshire #41 in the nation with an overall percentage of 45.00%.[1]

A 2007 study, Graded state responsiveness to FOI requests, conducted by BGA and the NFOIC, gave New Hampshire 41 points out of a possible 100, a letter grade of "F" and a ranking of 36 out of the 50 states.[2]

A 2002 study, Freedom of Information in the USA, conducted by IRE and BGA, ranked New Hampshire's law as the 29th worst in the country, giving it a letter grade of "D+."[3]

Features of the law

Sunshine variations Compare States: Sunshine variations
Click on the heading to compare your state's law to other state's transparency laws.

Declared legal intention

See also: Declared legal intentions across the U.S.

The law's statement of purpose declares, "Openness in the conduct of public business is essential to a democratic society. The purpose of this chapter is to ensure both the greatest possible public access to the actions, discussions and records of all public bodies, and their accountability to the people."[4]

What records are covered?

See also: Defining public records

New Hampshire law defines records as "any information created, accepted, or obtained by, or on behalf of, any public body."[5]

Exemptions

Notable exemptions include but are not limited to:

  • Records of grand juries
  • Parole board records
  • Student records
  • "Records pertaining to internal personnel practices; confidential, commercial, or financial information; test questions, scoring keys, and other examination data used to administer a licensing examination, examination for employment, or academic examinations; and personnel, medical, welfare, library user, videotape sale or rental, and other files whose disclosure would constitute invasion of privacy"[6]
  • Teacher certification records
  • Security information
  • "Preliminary drafts, notes, and memoranda and other documents not in their final form and not disclosed, circulated, or available to a quorum or a majority of the members of a public body"[7]
  • In 2003 New Hampshire inserted language to exempt ballots from the law, precluding any public inspection of ballots following elections, such as was necessary following Bush v. Gore and ever-increasingly necessary due to the concealed computerized vote counts used throughout the nation and counting more than 85% of NH ballots.

Deliberative process

See also: Deliberative process exemption

What agencies are covered?

See also: Defining public body

The law includes all branches of government at the state and all local levels.[8]

Legislature

See also: Legislatures and transparency

There is no clear exemption for the New Hampshire legislature under the Act and the legislature clearly falls within the definition of public body found at New Hampshire Revised Statutes VI.91-A:1.a. Thus, the documents of the legislature are assumed to be open for inspection.

Privatized governmental agencies

See also: Private agency, public dollars and Private agency, public dollars-New Hampshire

New Hampshire's law includes all non-profit corporations whose sole member is a public agency and any entity that performs a public function within the definition of public body.

Public universities

See also: Universities and open records

The definition of public body presumably includes public universities within the state. However, the law does contain an exemption for examination material at New Hampshire Revised Statutes VI.91-A:5.

Who may request records?

See also: List of who can make public record requests by state

New Hampshire's Right to Know Law indicates that all "citizens" have a right to access New Hampshire's records. However, the law does not elaborate on whether this includes only citizens of New Hampshire or citizens of the United States.[9]

Must a purpose be stated?

See also: States requiring a statement of purpose

The only requirement for a statement of purpose applies to the release of statistical data sets that may contain personal information.[10]

How can records be used?

See also: Record use restrictions

Exempted records may be released to other government agencies for use within only those agencies.[11] Records released as statistical data sets can only be used for research and cannot be distributed to undeclared, non-research personnel.[12]

Time allowed for response

See also: Request response times by state

New Hampshire law allows five days to respond to records requests. Extensions are available if the person making the request is notified in writing within five days of when the records will be available.[9]

Fees for records

Copy costs

See also: How much do public records cost?

New Hampshire law allows for fees that include the cost of duplication only.[9]

Search fees

See also: Sunshine laws and search fees

New Hampshire law does not allow public agencies to charge fees to cover the cost of records searches.[9]

Records commissions and ombudsmen

See also: State records commissions

The New Hampshire Right-to-Know Oversight Commission was established by the New Hampshire Right to Know Law in order to better assist the state in evaluating the open records law regarding electronic communication and expand the law to account for new technological developments.

Role of the Attorney General

See also: Role of the Attorney General

Although there is currently no provision that authorizes the state Attorney General to enforce the state's Right to Know law, the office does advice public agencies and state governmental officials that receive right-to-know requests and also responds to requests made by the public for information in regards to the law.

Open meetings

"All public proceedings shall be open to the public, and all persons shall be permitted to attend any meetings of those bodies or agencies. Except for town meetings, school district meetings and elections, no vote while in open session may be taken by secret ballot."[13]

See also

External links

References