Attorney Fee Bill Passes Legislature; Gov. Expected to Sign

Last year, Barbara Peterson of the First Amendment Foundation named the so-called attorney fee bill “the worst [public records] bill I’ve seen in all my 25 plus years.”

Luckily the bill got stuck in a committee where it effectively died when the last legislative session ended. But Peterson was dismayed when the same bill was reintroduced this year.

This time around the bill was amended and unanimously passed both chambers.

“This is a compromise bill, which means it’s not perfect but I hope it serves as the first step in fixing a large problem with our public records law — the lack of an enforcement mechanism,” Peterson said. “CS/SB 80 is much better than the bill as it was originally filed.”

However, one amendment to the bill allows the judge to award fees against the requestor if the court determines the public records request was made for an “improper purpose” which is defined as a request that is frivolous or was made for the primary purpose of causing a violation.

Other aspects of the new law include:

  • Amends the attorney fee provision in the public records law, requiring a court to award reasonable costs of enforcement, including attorney fees, to the requestor in lawsuits brought to enforce the public records law if a court
  • Determines that the agency violated the law; and
  • The requestor notified the agency’s custodian of records of the public record request five days prior to filing the lawsuit.  
  • Stipulates that the public records law does not allow monetary damages.  

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