The Maine Legislature recently enacted several important changes to Maine’s Freedom of Access Act that go into effect October 9, 2013. The new laws contain several new provisions that will have an impact on how municipalities and other government agencies respond to FOAA requests, including:
Email addresses collected and used by an agency or official to provide non-interactive notifications, updates and cancellations are no longer public records and should not be released
An agency or official must acknowledge receipt of a FOAA request within five working days of the request (previously the time for acknowledgment was a “reasonable amount of time”). The amendments also clarify that the agency or official must provide within a reasonable amount of time 1) a good faith, nonbinding estimate of the time within which the municipality will comply with the request and 2) a cost estimate for complying with the request.
Failure to deny a FOAA request within five days is considered a failure to allow copying and inspection and is subject to appeal to the Superior Court
Earlier this year the law was amended through emergency legislation that makes all applications for a permit to carry concealed handguns confidential.
With these new amendments to FOAA, it is important for municipalities to review policies to ensure compliance with the new provisions of the law. Bernstein Shur’s Municipal and Regulatory Practice Group has closely followed the amendments to FOAA and is prepared to assist municipalities with FOAA-related questions and the process of updating FOAA policies.