Magazine article Information Today

IIA Responds to Moves by States to Charge Fees for Access to Government Info

Magazine article Information Today

IIA Responds to Moves by States to Charge Fees for Access to Government Info

Article excerpt

IIA Responds to Moves by States to Charge Fees for Access to Government Info

Governor Mario Cuomo (NY) recently announced that he has submitted legislation to allow the state and local governments "to establish fees for providing government records based on the commercial utility of the records."

And New York State is not alone. "Fiscal pressures on state and local governments together with the new technologies of the Information Age are now threatening one of the most fundamental of all democratic principles--access to government information," said Ken Allen, senior vice president, Information Industry Association, in a speech to law makers at the National Conference of State Legislatures Task Force on Information Policy, April 12, Lincoln, Nebraska.

At the meeting, IIA released a major analytical document describing the statutory, case law and policy foundation for suggested state and local information policy that preserves citizen access to government information.

The document, Access Principles for State and Local Government Information: An Analysis, provides a storehouse of knowledge upon which state and local officials can draw as they shape the laws, policies, and procedures necessary to guarantee citizens continuing access to government information. The policies ensure that the information needs of Americans are met efficiently and effectively and foster long-term economic growth.

Democracy and Access to Government Information

"Freedom of speech, the presumption of citizen access to information and diversity of information sources are the foundation of U.S. democracy and unique among the community of nations," said Allen. "Government entities at all levels of our democracy have a responsibility to guarantee the ability of citizens to acquire information about the workings of government."

The information industry works with government in meeting the information needs of citizens and businesses, offering a diversity of products and services tailored to the specific needs of individual users.

An Information Policy Framework

In the paper, IIA puts forth an information policy framework based on three fundamental tenets:

* a broad public right of access;

* a right of nondiscriminatory access;

* prohibition on government control of information access and use. Each of these tenets is firmly grounded in the Constitution, legislatively-enacted statutes, and judge-made common law.

Six Principles to Preserve Public Access to Government Information

In today's environment where new technologies are rapidly changing the way in which information is created, used, and disseminated, IIA has identified six basic principles which should be adhered to in order to guarantee public access to state and local information. …

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