If your company is doing business in Virginia, then you should be aware of a proposed bill in the Virginia General Assembly that may increase public access to documents your company files with the Virginia State Corporation Commission (“SCC”). The proposed bill would amend the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (“Virginia FOIA”) to make the SCC subject to its terms, legislatively overturning a 2011 decision of the Supreme Court of Virginia which held that the Virginia FOIA does not apply to the SCC.
If passed, the SCC would be required to respond to FOIA requests from the public in the same manner as other Virginia governmental agencies. The bill would also give requesters who are dissatisfied with the SCC’s response the right to file suit against it in the Supreme Court of Virginia for a review of the SCC’s decision to withhold requested information.
For regulated industries, such as telecommunications, the bill may increase public access to information supplied to the SCC that the submitter considers to be proprietary and confidential. If passed, the bill will permit requesters, who previously did not have the ability to sue under the Virginia FOIA, to litigate whether submitted information was properly withheld under the statutory exemptions for confidential and proprietary information.
Originally proposed in January of 2013, the bill was recently endorsed by the Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council (“the FOIA Council”), a Virginia state agency that assists in resolving disputes over FOIA issues. Specifically, the FOIA Council voted to support negotiations between the General Assembly, the SCC and members of regulated industries to reach agreement on a compromise bill.
We will continue to track this bill’s progress and provide updates on its status.