1973 HB323 Legislative History

Versions of HB323:

From 1973 House Journal, Senate Journal, and Laws of 1973

House Index

[HJ 2247] HB 323 Re the right to know law. (Curran of Graf. 1)
206, SO 537, 566, am 592-593, psd 604, recon rej 605, S conc 852, enr 892 (Chapter 113)

Senate Index

[SJ 2394] HB 323 Extending the application of the right to know law to the legislature and all its committees.
773, am 1461-1462, psd 1477, H conc 1484, enr 1567 (Chapter 327)

Tuesday, 6 Feb. 1973


Rep. Zachos offered the following:

Resolved, that in accordance with the list in the possession of the clerk, House Bills numbered 318 through 334 and House Joint Resolution number 17 and Concurrent Resolution Proposing Constitutional Amendments number 20 shall be by this resolution read a first and second time by the therein listed titles, laid on the table for printing and referred to the therein designated committees.


First, second reading & referral

[HJ 206] HB 323 relative to the right to know law. (Curran of Grafton Dist. 1 - To Judiciary.)

Thursday, 15 March 1973

[HJ 537] Rep. Joseph M. Eaton moved that HB 265, relative to the commitment of children to the industrial school for an offense, and HB 323, relative to the right to know law, be made a special order for Tuesday next.


Tuesday, 20 March 1973

[HJ 566] Rep. Spirou moved that HB 265, relative to the commitment of children to the industrial school for an offense; HB 323, relative to the right to know law; HB 193, requiring open vehicles to be covered when carrying particulate material; HB 317, modifying the powers of the Nashua board of education, be made a special order for Thursday, March 22nd.


Thursday, 22 March 1973


The Speaker called for the Special Order on

HB 323

relative to the right to know law. Majority: Ought to pass with amendment; Rep. Close for Judiciary. Minority: Inexpedient to legislate. (Reps. Daniel J. Healy, Tarr and Record)

Majority: Makes any body or agency who refuses access to public documents liable for reasonable attorney's fees and costs incurred if a final judgment in favor of the request is rendered by the court.
Minority: Bill's solution to an alleged problem is unsatisfactory.


Amend the bill by striking all of paragraph one and inserting in place thereof the following:

[HB323 House Amendment]

[HJ 593] Rep. Daniel J. Healy moved that the report of the minority, inexpedient to legislate, be substituted for the report of the majority, ought to pass with amendment, and spoke in favor of the motion.

Reps. Curran, Close, Anthony Stevens, Rock, Albert C. Jones, McManus and Brungot spoke against the motion.

Reps. Record and Tarr spoke in favor of the motion.

Rep. Daniel J. Healy spoke a second time in favor of the motion.

Rep. Close spoke a second time against the motion.

Rep. Stevenson moved the previous question.

Sufficiently seconded.


A division was requested.

It being manifestly in the negative the motion lost.

Amendment adopted.

Ordered to third reading.

[HJ 604] Rep. George B. Roberts, Jr. moved that we now adjourn from the morning session, that the busines of the afternoon session be in order at the present time, that third reading of bills be by title only and when the House adjourns it adjourn to meet Tuesday next at 11:00 a.m.


Third reading and final passage

HB 323, relative to the right to know law.


Reps. Stevenson and Curran moved reconsideration on HB 323 and spoke against the motion.

Reconsideration lost.

Tuesday, 27 March 1973


First, second reading and referral

HB 323, relative to the right to know law. Judiciary.

Tuesday, 24 April 1973


HB 323 relative to the right to know law. Ought to pass. Sen, Bradley for the Committee.

[SJ 919] Sen. BRADLEY: Mr. President, this bill would amend the Right-to-Know Law in a fairly simple way. That when a person attempts to get a public record or document or access to something in the public agency's files and the agency refuses to make the document or other information available to the citizen and the citizen finds it necessary to go to court in order to see the document or get access then if the citizen is successful in his court suit his court cost including his attorney's fee will be charged against the agency which lawfully withheld the information. In the existing law the person will be reimbursed only his court cost, not including his attorneys fees unless at the courts' discretion it chose to give the person the attomey's fee which apparently is very rare. This would take away the court's discretion and say that if the person who brought the action prevailed and why, he would be reimbursed.

Sen. S. SMITH: This applies to all state agencies also.

Sen. BRADLEY: This would be any agency which comes under the present Right-to-Know Law. Chapter 91-A of the RSA. And I believe that includes State agencies as well.

Sen. S. SMITH: Is there any question as to which appropriations from an agency would cover this fee if it became necessary to pay this?

Sen. BRADLEY: I don't think that question came up but it's a good question. I suppose the answer would be in terms of political subdivision, but I think this would be under litigation budget and they would have to have said something to hire their own attorney to fight the matter in court in the beginning. We felt strong enough about it to have that sub-division - to spend money before they ever get to the point of having the other guy's attorney's fees, so that they didn't have anything in the budget to cover it they probably would never get to the problem in the first place.

Sen. JOHNSON: What about personnel records, does that come under this?

Sen. BRADLEY: Well, no, the statute exempts personnel records from the disclosure requirements but there are times, of course, when an agency will say personnel records are not public but the citizen will disagree and say it is not a personnel record and I should have access to it. A classic example of this [SJ 920] situation is a case in which I represented a school district so I have had experience with the problem where a citizen wanted to have access to the teacher's contract and salary information. The school district took the position that that was a personnel matter and part of the personnel file and was an exception. The matter is not clear in the statute and went to the supreme court for instruction. The supreme court agreed with the citizen. The citizen ended up having to pay his own legal fee to get something the court eventually told him he was entitled to in the first place and this bill seeks to remedy that injustice.

Sen. POULSEN: How much time is allowed an agency to do or secure the information as asked for? Is there a time limit?

Sen. BRADLEY: I think the statute says that a citizen has a right to have access to public documents and to make copies of public documents at any time during the business day or normal office hours kind of thing. The statute does not spell it out, a time limit within which it has to comply if it decides it wants to withhold something. This bill really doesn't speak to that issue but I think though as a practical matter that any agency is going to be able to take a few days if they feel they need it before it could get hauled into court and worry about paying for attorneys fees, for the simple reason that nobody is going to get to court and start a court case in, you know, some days. If your question is would you have a chance to call up your attorney and find out whether you have to release it or not, I would certainly think that you would have a few days to do that in a practical matter, although it is not really covered in the statutes.

Adopted. Ordered to third reading.

[SJ 933] Sen. Foley moved that the rules of the Senate be so far suspended as to allow that the business in order at the Late Session to be the business in order at the present time, that bills [SJ 934] be read by title only, resolutions by caption only and that when we adjourn we adjourn until tomorrow at 1:00 in Concord.


Third reading and final passage

HB 323, relative to the right to know law.

Wednesday, 25 April 1973


HB 323, relative to the right to know law.

Tuesday, 1 May 1973


HB 323, relative to the right to know law.

[HJ 893] Mabel L. Richardson
For The Committee.


HB 323, relative to the right to know law.

[SJ 998] Sen. Provost
For The Committee.

[Laws 97] Approved May 8, 1973.

Effective date July 7, 1973.