Kick this outdated policy to the curb

We've all known someone who has either been foolish enough or unlucky enough to have to move from the Commonwealth to one of the lesser 49 states. 

Despite their misfortune, many of them nonetheless retain more than a passing interest in what happens in this great state. 
  • Maybe their grandmother is a nursing home in Chesterfield; 
  • Maybe they own a beautiful farm in Shenandoah County; or 
  • Maybe they work as a contractor in Fairfax County, traveling their streets and eating lunch in their restaurants.
But under Virginia law, they can all  be denied requests for records because they no longer live here.
This is vastly out of step with  at least 44 others states in the country who manage to honor out of state requests without bringing their localities or states to their  knees.
HB788 would institute procedures for answering out of state requests, but balances that requirement with some flexibility for government.
  • Gives government 30 working days to respond instead of the usual five; and
  • Lets them demand up-front payment for amounts as little as $10 instead of the regular $200.
This bill would also eliminate the game of cat and mouse the current system leads to.
I was contacted over the weekend by a former journalist and current nursing student in another state who is doing research into racial discrimination in the nursing profession. He FOIA'ed a Virginia university and was turned down because he wasn't from Virginia. Though I will not be making the request for him, he has found someone in Virginia to make the request for him, and the university will have to respond.
Under this bill, the student could have gone in through the front door and the university would have more time to respond and could have demanded up-front payment.
The United States Supreme Court did say the provision was not unconstitutional, but in oral argument the chief justice asked the state why it bothered with such a limitation, and Justice Scalia called the limitation "pointless." 
Virginians do not benefit by keeping records away from others. It is time for the citizens-only limitation to go.

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