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Bill Expanding Transparency In Virginia Gets Hearing Tuesday

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The leading state regulatory agency in Virginia operates in the dark, exempt from the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.  That may change soon pending review of legislation submitted in the commonwealth.

Members of the Freedom of Information Advisory Council will be meeting in Richmond this week to hear a proposal to open the records of the State Corporation Commission — the leading regulatory agency that oversees everything from utilities to railroads.

In 2011, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled that the Virginia Freedom of Information Act does not apply to the commission, which means the process it uses to make decisions happens in the dark.

"That doesn't appear in the Virginia code anywhere," says Del. Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax). "And so I thought the Supreme Court decision was wrongly decided. So I put in a bill to basically reverse it."

Surovell says his bill didn't have much traction.

"A lot of regulated businesses showed up and expressed concern about all the sunshine that would be shed on the State Corporation Commission's activities, and it got referred to be studied," he says.

His bill was referred to the Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council, which referred the bill to its Rights and Remedies Subcommittee, which will consider the bill tomorrow.

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