FOREWORD

The New Hampshire "right to know" law is contained within RSA Ch. 91-A, as amended, and is entitled "Access to Government Records and Meetings" (hereinafter "Statute").

The Statute was enacted in 1967. It received broad bipartisan support in the legislature and from the governor. During legislative consideration one state senator underscored the Statute's purpose and function in a democratic society:

The public has a "right-to-know" what its public servants are doing and how they are responding to the people who put them there. An informed and knowledgeable electorate is the life-blood of a democratic society. Ignorance on the other hand, breeds the type of situation which opens the door to those who would destroy the democratic process.

. . . I submit, Sir, that when an individual runs for or accepts a position of responsibility to serve the people, he should be ready to call his shots openly and without equivocation.

Another reason I favor this measure is because the press will be able to accurately report what has transpired on a given occasion and not garble, distort or misrepresent when they have to speculate or accept second hand information on a vote or decision of some governmental body.

Since enactment, the Statute has been amended on numerous occasions. In most of these instances, the amendments have clarified or broadened the scope of the Statute. More changes are in the works as the legislature has under consideration a bill that would explicitly extend the Statute to electronic records in the transaction of governmental business.

One of the most significant amendments occurred in 1977, when the legislature added a preamble. It reads:

Openness in the conduct of public business is essential to a democratic society. The purpose of this chapter is to ensure both the greatest possible public access to the actions, discussions and records of all public bodies, and their accountability to the people.

The legislature amended the Statute in 2008 to make explicit its application to “governmental Records” in “electronic” form.

In New Hampshire, the public's right to know is further safeguarded by a state constitutional provision. In 1976 Part 1, Article 8 was amended to provide:

Government, therefore, should be open, accessible, accountable and responsive. To that end, the public's right of access to governmental proceedings and records shall not be unreasonably restricted (emphasis added).

In any case where it is unclear whether a record or proceeding is covered by the Statute, the person seeking access should ground his request on Part I, Article 8.