Does Freedom of Information Mean “Free”? Appendix A
|State||Category||Citation for Fee Waiver/Fees||Notes|
|Arizona||Mandatory Fee Waivers||https://www.azleg.gov/viewdocument/?docName=http://www.azleg.gov/ars/39/00122.htm||“No state, county or city, or any officer or board thereof shall demand or receive a fee or compensation for issuing certified copies of public records or for making search for them, when they are to be used in connection with a claim for a pension, allotment, allowance, compensation, insurance or other benefits which is to be presented to the United States or a bureau or department thereof.” A.R.S. § 39-122(A) (2020).|
No fee waivers for public entities or requests made in the public interest are mentioned/offered.
|Connecticut||Mandatory Fee Waivers||https://www.cga.ct.gov/current/pub/chap_014.htm#sec_1-212||“(d) The public agency shall waive any fee provided for in this section when:|
(1) The person requesting the records is an indigent individual;
(2) The records located are determined by the public agency to be exempt from disclosure under subsection (b) of section 1-210;
(3) In its judgment, compliance with the applicant’s request benefits the general welfare;
(4) The person requesting the record is an elected official of a political subdivision of the state and the official (A) obtains the record from an agency of the political subdivision in which the official serves, and (B) certifies that the record pertains to the official’s duties; or
(5) The person requesting the records is a member of the Division of Public Defender Services or an attorney appointed by the court as a Division of Public Defender Services assigned counsel under section 51-296 and such member or attorney certifies that the record pertains to the member’s or attorney’s duties.” Conn. Gen. Stat. §1-212(d) (2019).
|Hawaii||Mandatory Fee Waivers||https://oip.hawaii.gov/laws-rules-opinions/rules/#27132;|
|I think the state’s fee waiver provisions are in part mandatory and in part discretionary (under Hawaii Administrative Rules). https://oip.hawaii.gov/laws-rules-opinions/rules/|
Mandatory: HAR § 2-71-31 requires a mandatory waiver of the first $30 in “[f]ees for searching for, reviewing, and segregating records.”
HAR § 2-71-32 Waiver of fees when public interest served.
“(a) An agency shall waive $60 of the fees that may be assessed under section 2-71-31 when:
(1) The request for a waiver of fees is supported by a statement of facts, including the requester’s identity, in accordance with section 2-71-12; and
(2) The agency finds that the waiver of fees would be in the public interest pursuant to this section.
(b) A waiver of fees is in the public interest when:
(1) The requested record pertains to the operation or activities of an agency; however, the agency shall not consider the record’s relative importance to the public in applying this subsection;
(2) The record is not readily available in the public domain; and
(3) The requester has the primary intention and the actual ability to widely disseminate information from the government record to the general public at large.”
|Idaho||Mandatory Fee Waivers||https://legislature.idaho.gov/statutesrules/idstat/title74/t74ch1/sect74-102/||“The public agency or independent public body corporate and politic shall not charge any cost or fee for copies or labor when the requester demonstrates that the requester’s examination and/or copying of public records:|
(i) Is likely to contribute significantly to the public’s understanding of the operations or activities of the government;
(ii) Is not primarily in the individual interest of the requester including, but not limited to, the requester’s interest in litigation in which the requester is or may become a party; and
(iii) Will not occur if fees are charged because the requester has insufficient financial resources to pay such fees.” Idaho Code § 74-102(10)(f)(i)-(iii).
|New Hampshire||Mandatory Fee Waivers||http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/rsa/html/vi/91-a/91-a-mrg.htm||No fee shall be charged for the inspection or delivery, without copying, of governmental records, whether in paper, electronic, or other form. Nothing in this section shall exempt any person from paying fees otherwise established by law for obtaining copies of governmental records or documents, but if such fee is established for the copy, no additional costs or fees shall be charged. New Hampshire RSA § 91-A:4(IV) (2020).|
|New York||Mandatory Fee Waivers||https://www.dos.ny.gov/coog/foil2.html||Mandatory fee waiver where less than two hours of agency employee time is used to fulfill the request; no mention of fee waivers otherwise. N.Y. Pub. Off. Law Ch. 47 Art. 6 § 87(c)(iv).|
|Oklahoma||Mandatory Fee Waivers||https://www.oscn.net/applications/oscn/DeliverDocument.asp?CiteID=80292||In no case shall a search fee be charged when the release of records is in the public interest, including, but not limited to, release to the news media, scholars, authors and taxpayers seeking to determine whether those entrusted with the affairs of the government are honestly, faithfully, and competently performing their duties as public servants. 51 O.S. § 24A.5(4)(b).|
|Texas||Mandatory Fee Waivers||https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/GV/htm/GV.552.htm||(a) A governmental body shall provide a copy of public information without charge or at a reduced charge if the governmental body determines that waiver or reduction of the charge is in the public interest because providing the copy of the information primarily benefits the general public. Tex. Gov’t. Code § 552.267(a). “(b) If the cost to a governmental body of processing the collection of a charge for providing a copy of public information will exceed the amount of the charge, the governmental body may waive the charge.” Tex. Gov’t. Code § 552.267(b).|
|Alaska||Discretionary Fee Waivers||http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/statutes.asp#40.25.110||A public agency may reduce or waive a fee when the public agency determines that the reduction or waiver is in the public interest. Fee reductions and waivers shall be uniformly applied among persons who are similarly situated. A public agency may waive a fee of $5 or less if the fee is less than the cost to the public agency to arrange for payment. AK Stat § 40.25.110(d) (2019).|
|Arkansas||Discretionary Fee Waivers||link||“Copies may be furnished without charge or at a reduced charge if the custodian determines that the records have been requested primarily for noncommercial purposes and that waiver or reduction of the fee is in the public interest.” A.C.A. § 25-19-105(d)(3)(A)(iv).|
Note that the official Arkansas Leg site links to Lexis for public access to Ark. Code, so the link is pretty messy.
|Colorado||Discretionary Fee Waivers||https://www.sos.state.co.us/pubs/info_center/laws/Title24/Title24Article72Part2.html||If the public record is a result of computer output other than word processing, the fee for a copy, printout, or photograph thereof may be based on recovery of the actual incremental costs of providing the electronic services and products together with a reasonable portion of the costs associated with building and maintaining the information system. Such fee may be reduced or waived by the custodian if the electronic services and products are to be used for a public purpose, including public agency program support, nonprofit activities, journalism, and academic research. Fee reductions and waivers shall be uniformly applied among persons who are similarly situated. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-72-205(4).|
|Delaware||Discretionary Fee Waivers||https://delcode.delaware.gov/title29/c100/||When multiple FOIA requests are submitted by or on behalf of the requesting party in an effort to avoid incurring administrative charges, the public body may in its discretion aggregate staff time for all such requests when computing fees hereunder. Notwithstanding the foregoing, any Freedom of Information Act policy adopted by a public body pursuant to subsection (b) of this section hereunder may include provisions for the waiver of some or all of the above administrative fees; provided that such waiver shall apply equally to a particular class of persons (i.e., nonprofit organizations). 29. Del. C. § 10003(m)(2) (2020).|
|Illinois||Discretionary Fee Waivers||https://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ActID=85&ChapterID=2||Documents shall be furnished without charge or at a reduced charge, as determined by the public body, if the person requesting the documents states the specific purpose for the request and indicates that a waiver or reduction of the fee is in the public interest. Waiver or reduction of the fee is in the public interest if the principal purpose of the request is to access and disseminate information regarding the health, safety and welfare or the legal rights of the general public and is not for the principal purpose of personal or commercial benefit. For purposes of this subsection, commercial benefit” shall not apply to requests made by news media when the principal purpose of the request is to access and disseminate information regarding the health, safety, and welfare or the legal rights of the general public. In setting the amount of the waiver or reduction, the public body may take into consideration the amount of materials requested and the cost of copying them.” 5 ILCS 140/6(c).|
|Indiana||Discretionary Fee Waivers||http://iga.in.gov/legislative/laws/2020/ic/titles/005#5-14-3||“(i) This subsection applies to the fee charged by a public agency for permitting a governmental entity to inspect public records by means of an electronic device. A public agency may charge any reasonable fee for the inspection of public records under this subsection, or the public agency may waive any fee for the inspection.” IC § 5-14-3-8(i).|
“(k) The fee charged by a public agency under subsection (j) to cover costs for maintaining, upgrading, and enhancing an electronic map may be waived by the public agency if the electronic map for which the fee is charged will be used for a noncommercial purpose, including the following:
(1) Public agency program support.
(2) Nonprofit activities.
(4) Academic research.” IC § 5-14-3-8(k).
|Louisiana||Discretionary Fee Waivers||http://www.legis.la.gov/Legis/Law.aspx?d=99691||Copies of records may be furnished without charge or at a reduced charge to indigent citizens of this state or the persons whose use of such copies, as determined by the custodian, will be limited to a public purpose, including but not limited to use in a hearing before any governmental regulatory commission. La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 44:32(C)(2) (2019).|
|Maine||Discretionary Fee Waivers||http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/statutes/1/title1sec408-A.html||“11. Waivers. The agency or official having custody or control of a public record subject to a request under this section may waive part or all of the total fee charged pursuant to subsection 8 if: |
A. The requester is indigent; or
B. The agency or official considers release of the public record requested to be in the public interest because doing so is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of government and is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester.” 1 M.R.S.A. § 408-A(11) (2019).
|Maryland||Discretionary Fee Waivers||link||“(e) Waiver. — The official custodian may waive a fee under this section if:|
(1) the applicant asks for a waiver; and
(2) after consideration of the ability of the applicant to pay the fee and other relevant factors, the official custodian determines that the waiver would be in the public interest.” Md. General Provisions Code Ann. § 4-206(e) (2020).
|Massachusetts||Discretionary Fee Waivers||https://www.mass.gov/doc/950-cmr-32-public-records-access/download||“(k) Waiver of Fees. Records access officers may waive or reduce the amount of any assessed fee upon a showing that:|
1. disclosure of a requested record is in the public interest;
2. the request for records is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester; or
3. the requester lacks the financial ability to pay the full amount of the reasonable fee.” 950 CMR 32.07(2)(k) (2016).
|Michigan||Discretionary Fee Waivers||https://www.legislature.mi.gov/(S(uutnatcyualz4ltptocgvu4t))/mileg.aspx?page=getObject&objectName=mcl-15-234||“A search for a public record may be conducted or copies of public records may be furnished without charge or at a reduced charge if the public body determines that a waiver or reduction of the fee is in the public interest because searching for or furnishing copies of the public record can be considered as primarily benefiting the general public. A public record search shall be made and a copy of a public record shall be furnished without charge for the first $20.00 of the fee for each request by either of the following:|
(a) An individual who is entitled to information under this act and who submits an affidavit stating that the individual is indigent and receiving specific public assistance or, if not receiving public assistance, stating facts showing inability to pay the cost because of indigency. If the requestor is eligible for a requested discount, the public body shall fully note the discount on the detailed itemization described under subsection (4). If a requestor is ineligible for the discount, the public body shall inform the requestor specifically of the reason for ineligibility in the public body’s written response. An individual is ineligible for this fee reduction if any of the following apply:
(i) The individual has previously received discounted copies of public records under this subsection from the same public body twice during that calendar year.
(ii) The individual requests the information in conjunction with outside parties who are offering or providing payment or other remuneration to the individual to make the request. A public body may require a statement by the requestor in the affidavit that the request is not being made in conjunction with outside parties in exchange for payment or other remuneration.
(b) A nonprofit organization formally designated by the state to carry out activities under subtitle C of the developmental disabilities assistance and bill of rights act of 2000, Public Law 106-402, and the protection and advocacy for individuals with mental illness act, Public Law 99-319, or their successors, if the request meets all of the following requirements:
(i) Is made directly on behalf of the organization or its clients.
(ii) Is made for a reason wholly consistent with the mission and provisions of those laws under section 931 of the mental health code, 1974 PA 258, MCL 330.1931.
(iii) Is accompanied by documentation of its designation by the state, if requested by the public body.” Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 15.234(2) (2020).
|Minnesota||Discretionary Fee Waivers||https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/cite/13.03||Fees are up to the discretion of the agency where records requested have commercial value: “(d) When a request under this subdivision involves any person’s receipt of copies of public government data that has commercial value and is a substantial and discrete portion of or an entire formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique, process, database, or system developed with a significant expenditure of public funds by the government entity, the responsible authority may charge a reasonable fee for the information in addition to the costs of making and certifying the copies.” Minn. Stat. Ann. § 13.03-3(d) (2019). Further, no fee may be charged to “inspect data,” where “inspect” is defined as “the visual inspection of paper and similar types of government data.” Minn. Stat. Ann. § 13.03-3(b) (2019).|
|Missouri||Discretionary Fee Waivers||https://revisor.mo.gov/main/OneSection.aspx?section=610.026&bid=30423&hl=||Documents may be furnished without charge or at a reduced charge when the public governmental body determines that waiver or reduction of the fee is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the public governmental body and is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester. Mo. Rev. Stat. 610.026 (2019).|
|Montana||Discretionary Fee Waivers||https://leg.mt.gov/bills/mca/title_0020/chapter_0060/part_0100/section_0060/0020-0060-0100-0060.html||A public agency may charge a fee for fulfilling a public information request. MCA § 2-6-1006(3) (2019).|
|Nevada||Discretionary Fee Waivers||https://www.leg.state.nv.us/nrs/nrs-239.html#NRS239Sec052||“2. A governmental entity may waive all or a portion of a charge or fee for a copy of a public record if the governmental entity:|
(a) Adopts a written policy to waive all or a portion of a charge or fee for a copy of a public record; and
(b) Posts, in a conspicuous place at each office in which the governmental entity provides copies of public records, a legible sign or notice that states the terms of the policy.” NRS § 239.052(2) (2019).
|Oregon||Discretionary Fee Waivers||https://www.oregonlegislature.gov/bills_laws/ors/ors192.html||“(5) The custodian of a public record may furnish copies without charge or at a substantially reduced fee if the custodian determines that the waiver or reduction of fees is in the public interest because making the record available primarily benefits the general public.” O.R.S. § 192.324(5) (2019).|
The “public-interest test” can be found in the Oregon Attorney General Manual public records section, page 23. (Page 41 of the document attached below):
|Pennsylvania||Discretionary Fee Waivers||https://www.openrecords.pa.gov/Documents/RTKL/pa_righttoknowlaw.pdf||“(f) Waiver of fees. — An agency may waive the fees for duplication of a record, including, but not limited to, when:|
(1) the requester duplicates the record; or
(2) the agency deems it is in the public interest to do so.” 65 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 67.1307(f).
|Rhode Island||Discretionary Fee Waivers||http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/Statutes/title38/38-2/38-2-4.HTM||(e) A court may reduce or waive the fees for costs charged for search or retrieval if it determines that the information requested is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government and is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester. R.I. Gen. Laws § 38-2-4(e).|
|South Carolina||Discretionary Fee Waivers||https://www.scstatehouse.gov/code/t30c004.php||Documents may be furnished when appropriate without charge or at a reduced charge where the agency determines that waiver or reduction of the fee is in the public interest because furnishing the information can be considered as primarily benefiting the general public. S.C. Code Ann. § 30-4-30(B).|
|South Dakota||Discretionary Fee Waivers||https://sdlegislature.gov/statutes/Codified_laws/DisplayStatute.aspx?Statute=1-27-36&Type=Statute||The custodian may exercise discretion to waive or reduce any fee required under this section if the waiver or reduction of the fee would be in the public interest. SDCL §1-27-36.|
|Utah||Discretionary Fee Waivers||link||“(4) A governmental entity may fulfill a record request without charge and is encouraged to do so if it determines that:|
(a) releasing the record primarily benefits the public rather than a person” Utah Code § 63G-2-203(4)(a).
|Washington||Discretionary Fee Waivers||https://app.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=42.56.120||An agency may waive any charge assessed for a request pursuant to agency rules and regulations. RCW 42.56.120(4).|
|Wisconsin||Discretionary Fee Waivers||https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/statutes/statutes/19/II/35||(e) An authority may provide copies of a record without charge or at a reduced charge where the authority determines that waiver or reduction of the fee is in the public interest. Wis. Stat. § 19.35(3)(e) (2019).|
|Alabama||No Fee Waivers||Not mentioned||Alabama currently does not have a fee waiver provision specifically for public entities or those operating in the public interest. However, even for a member of the public, fees are (supposedly) only imposed when an agency provides a requester with physical, paper copies of records. AL Code § 36-12-40 (2019).|
As for court records: “[a]t the discretion of the clerk, copies of court records may be made at no charge for governmental agencies, whether federal, state, county, or municipal.” Ala. R. Jud. Admin. 30(D).
Additionally, a 2009 Alabama Attorney General opinion states that no fees for copies may be imposed if the requester inspects and makes her own copies/photos of the records.
|California||No Fee Waivers||No fee waivers||No fee waiver provision, but “a state or local agency may adopt requirements for itself that allow for faster, more efficient, or greater access to records than prescribed by the minimum standards set forth in this chapter.” Cal. Gov’t Code § 6253(e).|
|Florida||No Fee Waivers||Not mentioned; http://www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0100-0199/0119/0119.html||Fla. Stat. § 119.07 Inspection and copying of records; photographing public records; fees; exemptions. This section provides for applicable fees, but no mention of a waiver.|
|Georgia||No Fee Waivers||Not mentioned; link||Fee waivers are not mentioned, but aren’t expressly prohibited. O.C.G.A. § 50-18-71 addresses fees associated with public records requests. However, in an informational guide published January 2014 by Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens, the included sample public records request contains a provision which states “Please waive any costs associated with this request, or first inform us about such costs as required by Georgia law,” which tells me obtaining a fee waiver is possible and discretionary. https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:a4G1q9F85WcJ:https://law.georgia.gov/document/publication/citizens-guide-open-government/download+&cd=5&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us|
|Iowa||No Fee Waivers||https://www.legis.iowa.gov/docs/code/22.pdf||Waiver not specifically mentioned, though the fee itself is up to the discretion of the agency/custodian. Iowa Code § 22.3 (2020).|
|Kansas||No Fee Waivers||http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2019_20/statute/045_000_0000_chapter/045_002_0000_article/045_002_0018_section/045_002_0018_k/||Decision is left up to the agency as to whether it will impose fees. K.S.A. 45-218(f) (2019).|
|Kentucky||No Fee Waivers||https://apps.legislature.ky.gov/law/statutes/statute.aspx?id=23061||KRS § 61.874 (2020). Waivers not mentioned; agencies set fees.|
|Mississippi||No Fee Waivers||link||Public bodies “may” establish fees for records requested. Miss. Code Ann. § 25-61-7 (2019).|
|Nebraska||No Fee Waivers||https://nebraskalegislature.gov/laws/statutes.php?statute=s8407012000||[T]he public body, public entity, or public official which is the custodian of a public record may charge a fee for providing copies of such public record. Neb. Rev. Stat. § 84-712(3)(b).|
|New Jersey||No Fee Waivers||https://www.state.nj.us/grc/act.html#times|
|New Mexico||No Fee Waivers||https://www.nmag.gov/uploads/files/Publications/ComplianceGuides/Inspection%20of%20Public%20Records%20Compliance%20Guide%202015.pdf|
|North Carolina||No Fee Waivers||https://www.ncleg.gov/EnactedLegislation/Statutes/PDF/BySection/Chapter_132/GS_132-6.2.pdf||N.C.G.S. § 132-6.2 (2019).|
|North Dakota||No Fee Waivers||https://www.legis.nd.gov/cencode/t44c04.pdf||“For any copy of a record that is not a paper copy as defined in this section, the public entity may charge a reasonable fee for making the copy. As used in this section, “reasonable fee” means the actual cost to the public entity of making the copy, including labor, materials, and equipment.” ND Century Code Ch. 44-04-18(2) (2019).|
Any fee is determined by the agency/entity fulfilling the request.
|Ohio||No Fee Waivers||http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/149.43|
|Tennessee||No Fee Waivers||link||No waiver|
|Vermont||No Fee Waivers||https://legislature.vermont.gov/statutes/section/01/005/00316|
|Virginia||No Fee Waivers||https://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/title2.2/chapter37/section2.2-3704/|
|West Virginia||No Fee Waivers||http://www.wvlegislature.gov/wvcode/ChapterEntire.cfm?chap=29b&art=1§ion=3#01||(e) The public body may establish fees reasonably calculated to reimburse it for its actual cost in making reproductions of records. A public body may not charge a search or retrieval fee or otherwise seek reimbursement based on a man-hour basis as part of costs associated with making reproduction of records. WV Code § 29B-1-3(e).|
|Wyoming||No Fee Waivers||https://wyoleg.gov/NXT/gateway.dll?f=templates&fn=default.htm||A fee waiver may only be obtained by petitioning a district court “wherein the record is found for an order to direct the custodian of the record to show cause why he should not permit the inspection of the record and to compel production of the record if applicable. An order issued by the district court under this paragraph may waive any fees charged by the state governmental entity” W.S. § 16-4-203(f)(i) (2020).|