Opinion: The bridge Rhode Island has come to: Reforming the Access to Public Records Act

The public demands better accountability from government officials. Thankfully, two lawmakers have introduced bills to reinforce the public’s right to know.

Below is an excerpt from executive director John Marion’s commentary piece on the Access to Public Records Act. This was originally published in the Rhode Island Current on March 13, 2024. To read the full piece, click here. 

As inconvenient, poorly-planned, and downright annoying as this bridge closure has been for all of us, there is a single silver-lining to this catastrophe: It has made Rhode Islanders concerned about public records access for the first time in over a decade.

And fortunately, our lawmakers have the opportunity to make key improvements to the Access to Public Records Act (APRA) this session. Sen. Lou DiPalma and Rep. Patricia Serpa have introduced legislation that would overhaul the APRA. Among the more than four dozen changes in the bill, it would allow someone requesting records to ask the responsive agency to waive any fees if the request is in the public interest. Under the current law you have to go to court to request such a waiver — a costly and time-consuming process.