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Secretary of State Mollis Releases Annual "Access" Report

PROVIDENCE, R.I. The General Assembly complied with the state Open Meetings law 96 percent of the time last year, according to data released today by the Secretary of State's office.

The state's Open Meetings law requires most governmental bodies to post meeting notices and agendas at least 48 hours in advance. While the General Assembly is exempt from the law, the House and the Senate do issue meeting notices in accordance with their own rules. The Secretary of State's office monitored that activity in order to produce the "Access 2012" report.

"Accountability is a crucial gauge of government's willingness to keep the public informed about its work," said Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis.

Overall, House compliance was 94 percent and Senate compliance was 97 percent in 2012. Among the some of the legislature's most prominent committees, House Finance complied 94 percent of the time while Senate Judiciary had a 97 percent compliance rate.

As in previous years, nearly all the violations came in the last days of the session. Fifteen of the 19 total violations occurred during the 48 hours before the General Assembly recessed in the early-morning hours of June 13.

"The legislature's capacity to give the public at least 48 hours notice as the session winds down is constrained by the compressed timeframe for consideration and the volume of bills that must be addressed," said Mollis.

As the Secretary of State's office has done since the first "Access" report was issued in 1997, two categories of compliance were reviewed: Letter of the Law and Spirit of the Law. The former measures technical compliance with the state's Open Meetings law and the latter is an attempt to gauge the intent of the legislature.

The overall compliance rate of 96 percent covered a total of 438 legislative meetings in 2012. Spirit of the Law compliance was 100 percent.

Mollis gives the public access to legislative meeting notices and agendas on his website and maintains a searchable database of meeting notices, agendas and minutes for most other state and municipal agencies, commissions, boards and departments.

Secretary of State Mollis is committed to making it easier for Rhode Islanders to vote, making it easier to do business in Rhode Island and making government more open and accessible. For more information about the programs and services the Secretary of State offers Rhode Islanders, visit sos.ri.gov.

MEDIA CONTACT: Chris Barnett at 222-4293

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Related links

Department or agency: Office of the Secretary of State

Online: http://www.sos.ri.gov/

Release date: 02-01-2013

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