Access to government data is fundamental for an effective democracy.
Access to government data is a fundamental pillar of an effective democracy. Public access to public documents enables transparency and accountability in government decisions – and the implementation of those decisions.
Yet Maryland consistently rates poorly on transparency scorecards. In 2012, the State Integrity Investigation gave the state a D-, ranking Maryland 40th among the 50 states. The government scored particularly poorly for public access to information, which was graded an F.
The legislature has taken important steps towards a more open and accessible government. The Public Information Act (PIA) ensures public oversight of our state, county, and local governments. It allows Marylanders greater transparency into the workings of our officials, gives us access to data collected with public dollars, helps ensure a level of transparency vital to a healthy democracy. But there is a lot more work to be done. Common Cause Maryland is working to prevent the misuse of and protect presumption of disclosure under the PIA.
- Prevent Misuse of the Public Information Act – Recently, some in Maryland have misused the Public Information Act to collect bulk contact information on Marylanders for commercial and political use. We will work with Montgomery County legislators to ensure that Marylanders are not discouraged from reaching out to their elected officials by this behavior.
- Protect Presumption of Disclosure Under PIA – We’re working to ensure that no matter what, the Public Information Act is accessible to everyone. The foundation of the PIA is the presumption of disclosure. Unless a disclosure is explicitly disallowed by law, a custodian of public information must disclose that information to any person who requests it. This premise limits the government’s ability to shield valid public information from disclosure. In order for the PIA to be an effective check on the government, it is crucial that this presumption is protected by ensuring that exemptions are narrowly tailored and serve a clear public interest.