Opening the State House Doors


Freedom of Information (“FOI”) laws apply principally to the executive branch of government and the administrative state. Yet many state FOI statutes also provide access to legislative records, whether they have been created or obtained by individual legislators, committees, or legislative-branch agencies. A comprehensive survey of state FOI laws reveals trends in how such legislative records are treated. A minority of states, for example, categorically excludes legislative records from the scope of disclosure.  The remaining states provide at least some basic level of access, either in explicit terms or implied though judicial or executive-branch interpretation.  In the latter case, the interpretation of an FOI statute often involves consideration of broader context and the interplay of various provisions, including exemptions applicable only to legislative records.  Regardless, the data suggest a clear trend of interpreting state FOI laws to resolve any ambiguity in favor of public access.