Open-government advocates hope a new law will give people quicker access to most public records in Mississippi.
Gov. Haley Barbour signed a bill Wednesday that says, starting July 1, government entities will be required to respond to records requests within seven working days rather than the current 14.
For complex requests, the government could notify the person seeking the records that at least 14 working days would be needed.
Jeanni Atkins, executive director of the Mississippi Center for Freedom of Information, said Wednesday that with a response time of 14 working days, it often takes three weeks for people to receive even an acknowledgment of their requests for records from city, county or state governments.
“We’ve had reports from citizens who tried to get records that they get the run-around,” Atkins said. “With the way the law was written before, it kind of sent a signal that you can kind of sit around or take your time answering the requests. This makes it a little more urgent.”
Democratic Rep. David Norquist of Cleveland sponsored the bill, which also originally sought to limit the costs of copying public records by specifying the lowest-paid staff person who’s qualified to fill a request should do so. That provision was removed.
Some news organizations and citizens in the state have received bills for thousands of dollars for records that are compiled by attorneys.