Through Public Act 563 of 2014, significant amendments to Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) will take effect July 1, 2015. The amendments change the way public bodies must respond to FOIA requests and prohibit public bodies from charging fees for responding to FOIA absent adopting new policies and procedures. Many have touted Act 563 as making changes designed to increase transparency and reduce the cost of access to public records. Although laudable goals, the means by which Act 563 attempts to reach those goals will drastically change the way that public bodies must respond to FOIA requests. The most significant changes to FOIA include the following:
- Requiring public bodies to establish and make publicly available new procedures and guidelines that address how to submit written requests, how to understand a public body’s written response, the deposit requirements, fee calculations, and avenues for challenges and appeals as well as a standard form for detailed itemization of any amount in its response to written requests;
- Establishing new fee calculation guidelines and itemization requirements;
- Increasing certain recordkeeping requirements; and
- Increasing penalties for FOIA violations, including increased penalties for requiring a fee that exceeds the amount permitted under a public body’s own guidelines or FOIA.
To compare against pre-Act 563 and post-Act 563 FOIA fee calculation provisions and restrictions, please click here.
Although faced with many new requirements, public bodies can reduce the time and money associated with FOIA requests by placing more information on their websites. Public bodies that do not comply with FOIA’s new requirements by July 1, 2015, cannot charge fees related to FOIA requests and will have to provide information free of charge.