Public Act 563 of 2014 ("Act 563") amends the FOIA to impose a number of new regulations on public bodies. All municipalities will need to review their FOIA practices and procedures to ensure compliance with Act 563 before it takes effect on July 1, 2015. This article summarizes some of the more significant changes to current law.
Act 563 requires public bodies to itemize FOIA fees on a written invoice, detailing why each fee is reasonable and within one of following authorized categories: (1) labor costs for finding records; (2) labor costs for redacting exempt material; (3) costs for transferring material to electronic media; (4) costs of paper copying; (5) labor costs for copying; and 6) mailing costs. Act 563 also limits the amount of fees charged for contract labor involving the separation and exclusion of exempt material (including attorney review of exemptions) to six times the state minimum hourly rate. It further requires that fees be charged in increments of 15 minutes or more with partial increments rounded down.
There are also new regulations regarding government websites. Any public body that maintains a website must post a summary of its FOIA procedures and guidelines online. Further, if a FOIA requester asks for a record that is accessible on the website, the public body is required to inform the requester of that fact and is prohibited from charging a fee pertaining to the record.
Other notable features include:
- A maximum fee of 10 cents per page for copying costs.
- A requirement that any communication that conveys a request for information and includes a legal citation to the FOIA or the words "information," "FOIA," or "copy" must be construed as a FOIA request.
- An expansion of the $20 fee waiver (which currently applies only to indigent individuals) to organizations designated by the state to assist persons with disabilities and mental illnesses.
- A requirement that a municipality reduce the amount of fees charged if it does not timely respond to a request.
- An increase in the fine for arbitrary denials from $500 to $1,000, and a new fine of $500 for excessive fees.