Rhode Island Access to Public Records Act
The Rhode Island Access to Public Records Act (APRA) is a law, first enacted in 1979, that guarantees access to public records of government bodies at all levels in Rhode Island. APRA is defined in Chapter 38.2 of the Rhode Island General Laws; this chapter has 15 different subsections detailing aspects of APRA. APRA was enacted in 1979, and then significantly revised in 1991, 1998 and 2008. Rhode Island was the forty-ninth state to enact a FOIA law.
The Rhode Island Open Meetings Act legislates the methods by which public meetings are conducted.
To learn more about how to make a public records request in this state, please see: Rhode Island FOIA procedures
- See also: Rhode Island transparency headlines
- R.I. House to vote on bill protecting deadly force offenders 2009-08-04 13:23:41
- Open-records bill approved by Rhode Island House 2009-08-04 13:16:09
- School’s legal bills under wraps 2009-06-16 16:43:36
- RI Supreme Court orders release of private agency contracts 2010-06-25 09:05:49
- Carcieri must turn over documents 2009-06-16 16:39:37
- RI town sued over alleged open records violation 2009-06-16 16:31:04
- Coalition seeks to open birth records in R.I. 2009-06-16 16:41:41
- Governor has qualms over release of names, vetoes public records bill 2009-06-16 11:53:15
- Carcieri vetoes ‘sunshine’ bill, 21 others 2009-06-16 11:51:17
- Ocean State Policy Research Institute launches stimulus watch site 2009-08-04 13:14:42
Relevant legal cases
- See also: Court cases with an impact on state FOIA
Here is a list of lawsuits in Rhode Island. For more information go the page or go to Rhode Island sunshine lawsuits.
(The cases are listed alphabetically. To order them by year please click the icon to the right of the Year heading)
|American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees v. Office of the Governor||2010|
|Providence Journal Co. v. Sundlun||1992|
North Smithfield, 2008
The Rhode Island affiliate of the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the North Smithfield police department in December 2008 accusing the department of violating the APRA by refusing to turn over an arrest report.
The suit alleges that a police dispatcher refused in November 2008 to give a community activist a copy of an arrest report related to a traffic stop. The ACLU says the dispatcher erroneously told the activist the report was off-limits until criminal charges were resolved. The suit seeks $1,000 in damages.
Here is a list of transparency legislation for Rhode Island in 2011. This list contains a random collection of 15 bills from the state. For the full list please see Rhode Island transparency legislation.
|House Bill 5064||Current Status: (Withdrawn by Sponsor)||
House Bill 5064, introduced to the House of Representatives by Representative Agostinho Silva which would allow school committees to satisfy open meetings public notice requirements by posting notice on a website maintained by the committee or by giving notice in a local newspaper. 
|House Bill 5188||Current Status: (Recommended to be held for further consideration by committee)||
House Bill 5188, introduced to the House of Representatives by Representative Peter Petrarca which would exempt the town of Smithfield school committee from requirements to post notice of public meetings in a local newspaper. 
|House Bill 5220||Current Status: (Recommended to be held for further consideration by committee)||
House Bill 5220, introduced to the House of Representatives by Representative Thomas Winfield which would remove the requirement of school committees to post notice of public meetings in a local newspaper. 
|House Bill 5336||Current Status: (Withdrawn by Sponsor)||
House Bill 5366, introduced to the House of Representatives by Representative Michael Chippendale which would make any non-profit that receives more than 25% of its operational budget from public funds subject to open meetings law. 
|House Bill 5350||Current Status: (Recommended to be held for further consideration by committee)||
House Bill 5350, introduced to the House of Representatives by Representative Brian Newberry which would allow school committees to satisfy open meetings public notice requirements by posting notice on a website maintained by the committee or by giving notice in a local newspaper. 
|House Bill 5486||Current Status: (Referred to Finance Committee)||
House Bill 5486, introduced to the House of Representatives by Representative Helio Melo which would grant the Bureau of Audits, with the approval of the Director of Administration, the power to subpoena. This power would be reinforced by superior courts if necessary. 
|House Bill 5497||Current Status: (Recommended to be held for further consideration by committee)||
|House Bill 5745||Current Status: (Recommended to be held for further consideration by committee)||
House Bill 5745, introduced to the House of Representatives by Representative David Bennett which would allow for a public body to hold an emergency meeting if pressing matters required immediate addressing. 
|Senate Bill 231||Current Status: (Recommended to be held for further consideration by committee)||
Senate Bill 231, introduced to the Senate by Senator Hanna Gallo which would allow school committees to satisfy open meetings public notice requirements by posting notice on a website maintained by the committee or by giving notice in a local newspaper. 
|Senate Bill 390||Current Status: (Referred to Judiciary Committee)||
Senate Bill 390, introduced to the Senate by Senator John Tassoni which would exempt the town of Smithfield school committee from requirements to post notice of public meetings in a local newspaper. 
Here are a list of 30 random bills from Rhode Island from 2010. For a full list, please see Rhode Island transparency legislation.
We have no current bill pages for Rhode Island from 2010. This may be due to incomplete research. To add pages, please view ourproject page, WikiProject Proposed state sunshine legislation.
Transparency report card
A 2008 study, BGA - Alper Integrity Index, conducted by the Better Government Association and sponsored by Alper Services, ranked Rhode Island #2 in the nation with an overall percentage of 63.40%. 
A 2007 study, Graded state responsiveness to FOI requests, conducted by BGA and the NFOIC, gave Rhode Island 66 points out of a possible 100, a letter grade of "D", and a ranking of 9 out of the 50 states.
Features of the law
- Compare States: Sunshine variations: Click on the heading to compare your state's law to other state's transparency laws.
The motivation behind the law, as expressed in its introduction, is, "The public's right to access to public records and the individual's right to dignity and privacy are both recognized to be principles of the utmost importance in a free society." 
Rhode Island law includes all documents, no matter their physical form that are "made or received pursuant to law or ordinance or in connection with the transaction of official business by any agency". 
Notable exemptions include but are not limited to:
- Personal records of any individuals that would release private contact information, "medical treatment, welfare, employment security, pupil records, all records relating to a client/attorney relationship", excluding, "with respect to employees, the name, gross salary, salary range, total cost of paid fringe benefits, gross amount received in overtime, and other remuneration in addition to salary, job title, job description, dates of employment and positions held with the state or municipality, work location, business telephone number, the city or town of residence, and date of termination shall be public".
- Pension records
- Trade secrets
- Child custody records
- Law enforcement records
- "Any records which would not be available by law or rule of court to an opposing party in litigation." 
- Security information
- Charitable donor information
- Collective bargaining
- "Preliminary drafts, notes, impressions, memoranda, working papers, and work products; provided, however, any documents submitted at a public meeting of a public body shall be deemed public"
- Elected officials
- Property appraisals for potential purchases
- Tax returns
- Investigations of public bodies
- Library records
- Credit card and account numbers
Rhode Island law includes all branches of government at the state and local levels as well as all groups acting on behalf of those government agencies.
The legislature falls under the definition of public body found at Rhode Island law 38-2 and is subject to the Rhode Island Access to Public Records Act.
Rhode Island law includes all private entities which perform governmental functions within the definition of public body found within the Access to Public Records Act.
Status: Presumed Open Popular Exemptions Research Donors Examinations Course Materials 
- Presumed Open
The definition of public body presumably includes public universities within the state. However, charitable donor information is exempt under Rhode Island law 38-2.
Anyone may request public records in Rhode Island. The law explicitly states that "[E]very person or entity shall have the right to inspect" public documents. 
Request for records may be made for any reason, according to Section §38-2-3 of the APRA. Section §38-2-3(h) clarifies that a public record cannot be withheld based on the purpose for the request, if the purpose is made known to the custodian of the record.
According to APRA §38-2-6, it is illegal to use information obtained from public records to "solicit for commercial purposes, or to obtain a commercial advantage over the party furnishing that information to the public body." People who violate this part of APRA can be criminally charged with up to a $500 fine and/or one year imprisonment, if their violation was knowing and willful.
- 10 days
Rhode Island law allows 10 days for a public body to deny a request. If the agency does not respond by within 10 days, it is deemed a denial.
Fees for records
Rhode Island law allows the charging of fees which can include the cost of duplication. 
Rhode Island law also allows the charging of fees to cover the cost of the labor involved in the search not to include the first hour of search and not to exceed $15 an hour.
Under § 38-2-8(b) of the Rhode Island General Laws, the State Attorney General is charged with investigating any complaint brought by a private citizen related to access to public records. At the same time, however, the individual denied the request is allowed to pursue legal action in Superior Court of the county in which the records are maintained.
The Rhode Island Open Meetings Act states, "It is essential to the maintenance of a democratic society that public business be performed in an open and public manner and that the citizens be advised of and aware of the performance of public officials and the deliberations and decisions that go into the making of public policy."
- Rhode Island FOIA procedures
- Rhode Island transparency headlines
- Rhode Island transparency advocates
- Rhode Island transparency legislation
- Private agency, public dollars-Rhode Island
- Rhode Island Open Meetings Act
- Access to Public Records Act
- Open Meetings Act
- Open Government Guide to Rhode Island
- Past articles on Rhode Island
- ↑ 2008 BGA-Alper Integrity Index
- ↑ States Failing FOI Responsiveness, National Freedom of Information Coalition, October 2007
- ↑ Freedom of Information in the USA, 2002
- ↑ Rhode Island General Laws, Section 38-2-1
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 Rhode Island law 38-2
- ↑ Rhode Island law 38-2
- ↑ Private agency, public dollars-Rhode Island
- ↑ Rhode Island law 38-2
- ↑ Rhode Island General Laws, section 38-2-3
- ↑ Rhode Island General Laws, section 38-2-3
- ↑ APRA Chapter 38.2, Section 6
- ↑ APRA Chapter 38.2, Section 7
- ↑ Rhode Island Statute 38-2-4
- ↑ Rhode Island Statute 38-2-4
- ↑ Rhode Island General Laws, section 42-46-1
State of Rhode Island
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