Fulton County’s top government attorney, Patrise Perkins-Hooker, recently proposed limiting the amount of open records requests one person or agency can make. Perkins-Hooker would like to restrict records requests to 15 per year with at least 10 days between each.
Although the proposal states that this would not be applied to members of the media, it would still violate citizens’ rights to information. It would also prevent “citizens’ ability to observe the workings of their government,” which is protected by the Open Records Act, included in Georgia’s “Sunshine Laws.”
Perkins-Hooker’s proposal also included the potential for fines and criminal charges for those who pursue records requests beyond the limitation. Requesting more than 15 records requests per year or more than one in a 10-day period could cost citizens a misdemeanor and a $1,000 fine for the first violation and $2,500 each for any additional violation in the same year.
Hollie Manheimer, executive director of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation, said the proposal is “among the worst ideas I’ve ever reviewed as leader of the First Amendment Foundation. It blatantly undermines the whole concept of democracy, to clamp down on citizens who are seeking to get information.”
Unfortunately proposals like this may be what the future holds in a country where the president elect wants to “close up” the Internet and in a state where conservatives start a watchlist for professors they deem “too liberal.” We need to hold these so-called “Constitutionalists” accountable to protect what little governmental transparency we still have.