OLR Bill Analysis

sHB 5271

AN ACT REDEFINING "PUBLIC AGENCY" FOR PURPOSES OF THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT.

SUMMARY

This bill expands the definition of “public agency” under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to include an organization established by a commission, task force, working group, or any other body created in statute by the General Assembly, including a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit organization (hereafter “covered organization”). In the case of an organization established by a judicial office or body, the bill applies only to its administrative functions (see BACKGROUND).

By including covered organizations in the definition, the bill subjects them to FOIA's requirements for public agencies. Generally, this means that they must make their records and meetings open to the public, unless an exemption applies (e.g., certain records containing trade secrets).

Current law generally defines “public agency” as any (1) state or local governmental agency, department, institution, bureau, board, or commission, including any executive, administrative, or legislative office, and the administrative functions of any judicial office, including the Division of Public Defender Services or (2) entity that is the functional equivalent of any such agency (CGS 1-200(1)) (see BACKGROUND).

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2018

BACKGROUND

Administrative Functions

The Connecticut Supreme Court has ruled that, for purposes of FOIA, records related to the Judicial Branch's adjudicatory functions are categorically exempt from disclosure and that a judicial office's administrative functions consist of activities relating to its budget, personnel, facilities, and physical operations (Clerk of the Superior Court, Geographical Area Number Seven et al. v. Freedom of Information Commission, 278 Conn. 28 (2006)).

Functional Equivalent

In determining whether an entity is the “functional equivalent” of a public agency for purposes of FOIA, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that the following four factors must be considered:

1. whether the entity performs a government function,

2. the level of government funding,

3. the extent of government involvement or regulation, and

4. whether the entity was created by the government.

Further, the court held that “[a]ll relevant factors are to be considered cumulatively, with no single factor being essential or conclusive” (see Board of Trustees of Woodstock Academy v. Freedom of Information Commission, 181 Conn. 544 (1980) and Connecticut Humane Society v. Freedom of Information Commission, 281 Conn. 757 (1991)).

COMMITTEE ACTION

Government Administration and Elections Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

10

Nay

7

(03/23/2018)