We discuss the current proposal to privatize 5+ unit dwelling’s trash collection in Manchester, the upcoming Liberty Forum (March 15 & 16), the hockey match between NHGOP and the LP–it’s currently a draw 1:1 so the stakes are high, and all proceeds go to the Children’s Scholarship Fund, so, really, everyone wins!
This week, Manch Talk is in the new studio and bugs are still being sorted. We cover the moves towards more secretive government and censorship, with Carla uncovering some startling revelations from Grok on X, including “#FreeAssange” being banned.
I will upload the Grok screen grabs here later.
WATCH THE VIDEO BELOW ABOUT THE MOST INSIDIOUS NH HOUSE BILL BEING HEARD TOMORROW!!!
They’re creating a tax for open record requests. We HAVE TO KILL HB 1002!!!
Here’s the documents created by Right-to-Know NH regarding HB 1002. HUGE SHOUT OUT to Katherine Kokko of Right-to-Know NH for the incredible work she did on this issue, including the Q&A below. Right-to-Know NH is a nonpartisan group working together to keep NH government open, transparent, and ACCOUNTABLE to the people.
HB1002: Frequently Asked Questions
How does HB1002 impact the public’s Right to Know?
HB1002 imposes labor, retrieval, and redaction costs on requestors under RSA Chapter 91-A (NH’s “Right to Know” Law). HB1002 constrains a citizens’ right to know to what can be learned in 10 hours or less in a 30-day period, while charging for additional details within that time period.
A ten hour limit on requests sounds reasonable on paper. Why is this a problem?
The limit hampers the public’s ability to understand and scrutinize complex government operations thoroughly, setting conditions for opacity in government. HB1002 targets, and discourages members of the public from performing the public service of assuring transparency in government, jeopardizing public access and government transparency in New Hampshire. There are other ways to address the problem of “burdensome requests” as presented to the House (See inside).
What else is wrong with HB1002?
By defining the reasonableness of a request as a time limit, HB1002 contravenes the intent of the RTK Law repeatedly affirmed by the courts – to define reasonableness of a request in a manner that provides the greatest information, consistent with statutory and constitutional objectives.
Furthermore, high labor estimates for responding to a request are likely to be issued due to issues like poor record retention practices or the use of overzealous redactions. Those are the responsibility of the public body, not the fault of the requestor.
Why is it important for the public to have unfettered access to public information under NH’s Right to Know law?
NH’s law is entirely and uniquely reliant on private action by individuals for enforcement, giving the public a statutory role in ensuring transparency in NH. There is no oversight body to ensure that NH’s Right-to-Know law is enforced.
Any investigation, even by the RTK Ombudsman, must be instigated by private action. HB1002 erects financial barriers to the public and perversely incentivizes public bodies to increase their estimated labor in responding to RTK requests.
This bill appears to have lot of support from local communities, public bodies and their lobbyists. Who is opposing this bill?
Because this bill would severely harm government accountability and transparency in New Hampshire, it is opposed by a broad Coalition of stakeholders, including the Right-to-Know NH, the ACLU-NH, the New England First Amendment Coalition, the N.H. Press Association, the N.H. Union Leader, the N.H. Bulletin and Americans for Prosperity.
WHY VOTE NO
It sounds like “burdensome requests” are a big problem for public bodies/communities? Does RTKNH agree?
The bill’s sponsor Katelyn Kuttab (R-Windham), the NH Municipal Association and Right to Know NH have all confirmed that the large, problematic requests at issue are infrequent. In testimony, examples of “burdensome requests” were anecdotal and not placed in context. Most labor-intensive RTK requests come from commercial entities who are likely willing to pay.
By contrast, the average citizen will likely abandon their RTK request when faced with potential fees for a public interest inquiry, serving no public good. The impact on the average citizen request will be far more profound than the impact on burdensome commercial requests.
If this bill is NOT passed, how will public bodies/communities deal with these “burdensome requests”?
HB1002 addresses a perceived issue that is already addressed by the Right to Know law and existing State and Federal case law. HB1002 disincentivizes public bodies from understanding the existing parameters of the RTK law and the court’s definitions of “reasonableness”… at the public’s expense.
Finally, public bodies always have the option of communicating with the requestor to try and clarify the scope of the request. Many do not do this and choose a legalistic approach instead.
Are there other ways to address these “burdensome requests?”
Yes. Public bodies, including elected officials, should be trained on Right to Know. There is no training requirement. Relying on legal counsel or trying to base decisions on in-house interpretations – instead of training public employees on the front lines – exacerbates issues. When a community spends an inordinate amount of time on Right to Know requests, it is often due to this lack of training and/or reliance on overly legalistic responses.
• What else could be done to assist public bodies?
Multiple stakeholders have asked the AG’s Office to update its 2015 Memorandum on NH’s Right to Know Law so that public bodies can appropriately apply the many precedent-setting decisions made since 2015. The AG’s Office has not done so (claiming that it is in process) while failing to provide a timeline for completion. Meanwhile, it has endorsed HB1002 and specifically the proposed fee structure. This is an unacceptable abdication of its own role in assuring the integrity of the application of the Right-to-Know law.
• The House Judiciary Committee voted this bill OTPA. Why should I disagree with their recommendation?
With only 2 business days between the hearing and Executive Session, the House Judiciary Committee voted HB1002 OTPA 12-8 along evenly split party lines (6D/6R to 4D/4R), without:
(i) Investigating examples, or the origin and root causes of, burdensome requests that are being cited anecdotally to justify this bill
(ii) Considering more targeted proposals to limit excessive requests.
(iii) Investigating the role that RTK training and public guidance (including from the NH Attorney General’s office) could have in resolving this issue.
• How will this bill impact the “average” RTK request?
HB1002 reinforces the use of problematic practices like unnecessary redactions, use of outside contracted support staff and “data dumps” of large volumes of unnecessary documents by allowing billing for such labor. It will also have a “chilling effect” on anything but the most simple request, discouraging the public from researching and understanding issues of interest because they are “too complicated” to warrant paying for the public interest.
Developed and Funded by Committed NH Citizen-Advocates through Right-to-Know NH
Tammy and Carla discuss New Hampshire’s FITN Primary results, where Trump trounced Never Nikki and Biden got a bunch of write-ins, but man, lame-oh, lame-oh. Also, we discuss the strangeness around Keith Murphy’s assault case, for which he was found NOT GUILTY last week.
The Free State of New Hampshire, despite national Democrats attempts to marginalize, is still in business for the First in the Nation Primary next week. With Vivek dropping out and Nikki destroying an entire forest in paid-for junk mailers, and of course, Trump and DeSantis, no one seems to know what is about to happen. Join Tammy and Carla for their takes on what’s coming up on Tuesday!
Defend the Guard passes the NH House! NH Senator Jeanne Shaheen botches history after tweeting that Ben Franklin said, “A democracy, if you can keep it”. Join us for a rip-roaring episode replete with free speech about boobies. (And there still is no such thing as a free lunch.)
Happy holidays! This week, we get a tad “WOO!” when wondering what happens when people start wishing for the worst? As Ma said growing up: Be careful what you wish for!
This week is a freewheeling episode about tech, AI, and what the future might hold.
Cranberry margaritas? Choccies? How about all things in moderation?