Subcommittee positions 2-2-16






SB 202


Salaries represent the single biggest expenditure of public money. Citizens need the accountability; government employees need information on whether they are being paid fairly; and society needs to determine whether government work is properly valued. By restricting the pool of those whose salary data must be disclosed, and by limiting dissemination of this data, the state is moving in the opposite direction of current trends in making this data more accessible.

PART 1: Raising the minimum salary threshold from $10,000 to $30,160 (or more, in the future) leaves out a slew of part-time and full-time positions that could be held by friends and family at no small cost to the local or state government without any way for the public to monitor them.

PART 2: With the term “database” left undefined, it could encompass any citizen watchdog who posts salary data on a blog or Facebook page.

The trend is for governments to take the lead in making this spending data available online. For example:

Virtually all states require access to salary data on public employees without reference to a minimum dollar amount or without limitation on naming individuals. (See attachment).

SB 236




SB 492


Family members have been denied any and all access to records that would help them understand and process how their loved died. These families deserve compassion, not further heartbreak by denying them basic information about their relative’s death.


SB 493


The public should be privy to the conversations about how much more they may be paying to support the work of their elected officials. Officials may indeed deserve or need a raise, but that is a matter of policy, not individual performance, and it should be discussed publicly.


SB 552


It is no less necessary for the public to know what the employees named in the proposed exemption are paid than it is for any other public employee in state, local or school government. The exemption is so broadly written that even job classifications and positions are off limits, making it impossible for the public to monitor whether departments are filled with friends or family members, or that officers are being fairly compensated compared to others in their division or compared to those in other jurisdictions. Salary is a basic piece of government spending information that cannot be carved up to be more applicable or less applicable based on a person’s job.


SB 564




SB 645


In addition to greatly expanding the current exemptions for critical infrastructure and security (“criminal activity affecting critical infrastructure or government infrastructure” = kids spray-painting graffiti on a county bridge?), the proposed procedures for discretionary release completely upend the tradition and overall policy of FOIA. Never have we allowed an individual to override the record custodian’s decision to release records in his/her discretion. Never have we granted so much additional time by statute to reply. Never have we imposed a balancing test that pits individual privacy against the public’s right to know. Virginia has many times refused to impose a so-called “purpose” test such as this, a test that would say some requests are more worthy, more noble than others.


SB 678


FOIA already has mechanisms allowing for more time to respond: the 7-day extension and the ability to petition a court for more time. FOIA allows government to charge for its time and expense (the “actual cost”) of filling a request. FOIA also allows the government to postpone filling a request if a requester has owed money on a prior FOIA request for 30 days or more.

Because of the ability of government to charge for their time, FOIA is not an unfunded mandate. FOIA is a statute that applies to government at all levels. Even the smallest localities must make FOIA a part of their regular work, not something that is considered separate, apart and detracting from other work.

This bill would effectively give these small localities 35 days to respond to a FOIA request (5 by current statute, plus 30 under this proposal). That would be the longest response time in the entire country.

SB 706


Whether you believe hydraulic fracturing (fracking/fracing) is a good idea or a bad idea, it is hard to fathom why it would be OK to inject chemicals into the ground below communities and simultaneously hide from them what those chemicals are.

According to the law firm Vinson & Elkins, 13 states have laws requiring disclosure of hydraulic fracturing fluids: Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, West Virginia and Wyoming.