Rhode Island Gets New FOI Revamp!

Gov. Lincoln Chafee on Tuesday signed a reworked public records bill into law that unseals government employment contracts and creates a so-called “balancing test” for disclosures modeled after federal statute.

The new law is the first significant change to the state’s Access to Public Records Act (APRA) in 14 years and Chafee said he hopes it will make government more transparent in Rhode Island.

“It’s a good bill, passed almost unanimously,” Chafee said moments after signing it. “We’re always criticized for being inaccessible and we struggle with some of our ethical issues in this state, so it’s always good to [let] sunshine in.”

The law – which goes into effect Sept. 1 – also requires certain details of an arrest to be released within 48 hours on weekdays or 72 hours on weekends. The information would be presented as an arrest “log” and include the name of the person charged, the alleged crime and where and when it took place. Massachusetts uses a similar process.

The most significant change is the addition of the balancing test, which is designed to counter a broad exemption in the old law that keeps sealed all records that are “personally identifiable” to an individual.

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