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State Freedom of Information Acts

The states, the district of Columbia, and some territories have their own version of the Freedom of Information Act, referred to variously as Open Records, Open Meetings, Open Government or Sunshine laws.  State freedom of information acts govern the disclosure of documents at the state and local level.  These provisions of state laws differ from state to state.  Issues such as the time period within which an agency must provide the requested documents, how much an agency is allowed to charge for providing documents, whether the state government provides an ombudsman, whether the document requestor must give a reason for wanting the documents, are dealt with differently in different states. 

The first open records law was passed in Wisconsin in 1848.  Later by 1970, a number of states passed their open record laws.  Florida was the first state to pass an open meetings law in 1967. Although other states also have such a law, their exact provisions vary; 41 states require advance notice of meetings, 37 states are required to take and publish minutes of every meeting, and in 31 states actions or decisions are only recognized as official if decided upon during an open meeting.

Specific legislation may require that all government meetings be open to the public, or that written records be released upon request. The purpose of these legislations is to enable citizens and journalists to examine government activity to detect political corruption, or to allow them to have input into government decisions that affect them.

Inside State Freedom of Information Acts