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Virginia Panel Rejects Effort To Open Records Of Regulatory Agency

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Del. Scott Surovell, left, makes his case to the Freedom of Information Advisory Council.
Michael Pope
Del. Scott Surovell, left, makes his case to the Freedom of Information Advisory Council.

Open government advocates are pressing to open the records of the Virginia State Corporation Commission, which regulates everything from car insurance to cell phone bills.

Del. Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax) appeared before a panel of the Freedom of Information Advisory Council to make his pitch for increased transparency. During a subcommittee meeting at the General Assembly Building, he presented language for a bill that would make the State Corporation Commission subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

"Personally, I would like to make the entire SCC subject to FOIA," Surovell says. "However I don't have an interest right now in taking on a couple thousand businesses and about 50 lobbyists."

But a smaller number of businesses and lobbyists were on hand anyway to oppose the bill. Speaking on behalf of the gas utilities, Brent Archer says he didn't see any reason for the bill.

"We feel that things that are now happening proactively and informally that could be subject to FOIA would then become... there would be hesitancy a reticence among the utilities to share that information to have that kind of dialogue," Archer says.

Surovell was hoping to walk out of the meeting with a vote of approval from the subcommittee, but that didn't happen. A majority of the members voted to leave things the way they are now. Surovell says he will introduce the bill anyway when the next session begins.

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