October 2023 BNL

The State House has started to gear up for next session, we have already asked for our ideas to be turned into legislation, and now we are working with the staff to finalize the language before they become bills. Some of the ideas being worked on by other legislators are:

“creating a private cause of action for discrimination based on hairstyles relative to a person's ethnicity”

“prohibiting smoking and e-cigarettes in motor vehicles when a passenger is under 16 years of age”

“prohibiting the sale and use of rodent glue traps”

One place that I have been very active in legislation is in access to public information. In 2021 I proposed (HB 566) that non-public meeting minutes about property acquisition would be open to the public after the deal closed or fell through because some votes to open up those documents were not being reviewed by boards. That is now law. This year, I proposed (HB 321) to ensure boards/committees have a plan to review meeting minutes kept from the public for consideration. If they have no plan, such minutes become public after 10 years. This is now law, too.

I have been working towards eliminating barriers that conceal records meant to be public by current law. I am now focusing on expanding public access to these records while streamlining the process for municipalities to facilitate such access. Electronic records have been allowed by statute for some time (RSA 33-A:5-a), but municipalities still have boxes and boxes of records and spend hours hunting for requested documents. I am working with the State Archivist on a plan for the state to have a website which would allow local records to be uploaded and stored, with the public being able to access those records. This would eliminate the need for the local municipality to fulfill any request for any documents they choose to upload there. The idea has been received well from state officials and the Municipal Association as it is voluntary for towns but offers them a way to reduce the cost of public access to public records. To provide the most benefit from such legislation, investments to digitize the historical records will be needed. However, current records that are put online could just be uploaded to the state website instead. From the public’s perspective, it would provide a one-stop shop for many documents from towns and cities across the state, viewable 24/7. I hope that we are able to do this cheaply so we will not have to wait till the 2025 budget process to start implementation.

Feel free to reach out with questions or concerns at Josh.Yokela@leg.state.nh.us

Josh Yokela

Representing Brentwood, Danville, and Fremont