Vermont Public Records Act gets a closer look

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June 15, 2011

Burlington, Vermont: Under the Vermont Public Records Law (1 V.S.A. §§ 315-320), state agencies, boards, commissions, committees, and branches are obligated to provide open access to public records for inspection and copying.

There are forty types of records that are exempt from this public inspection, including records pertaining to an ongoing criminal investigation, confidential records, personnel records, bank account information, trade secrets, licensing exam questions, and student information.[1] A 2007 report from the Legislative Council on the law and its statutory exemptions revealed 206 of these exemptions - a figure that Secretary of State Jim Condos now estimates to be higher than 260.

The Vermont General Assembly and Governor Peter Shumlin responded earlier this month by signing into law H.B. 73, requiring that a special committee of the legislature examine the legitimacy of the various exemptions claimed to see if any could be eliminated.[2] The bill would also require state agencies to pay attorney's fees for denied requests that were subsequently decided to be valid in the state court.[3]

Governor Shumlin suggested that the "bill represents an important step toward more open government."[4]

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