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Plymouth State students say HB 1002 would make public information a “Privilege to Know”

Editorial Board of The Clock


Right to Know laws are meant to make public information as accessible as possible. On Thursday, February 1, the NH House will vote on HB 1002, which seeks to impose a fee of up to $25 per hour for information requests and sequences of requests that take more than 10 hours of employee time over 30 days. 

HB 1002 contradicts what it means for information to be public in the first place. Right to Know laws exist because our society has decided that transparency is a public good. This bill would turn public information into an exclusive commodity for people and organizations with pockets deep enough to afford it, effectively eliminating access for the student body of the USNH system.

As college students, we benefit from truly public information. Right to Know gives us access to local crime statistics. It allows us to see town construction plans and meeting minutes.

Imposing a cost for public information is akin to a poll tax. A financial burden intentionally limits the ability of the people to hold their government accountable. Historically, poll taxes – fees voters must pay in order to vote, designed to limit civic participation – have marginalized the communities that benefit most from better representation. In the same way that the United States Supreme Court found poll taxes unconstitutional because “voter qualifications have no relation to wealth,” the right to public information – the right to know – has no relation to wealth either.

Being informed in 2024 is harder than it should be. With so many conflicting narratives coming from both sides of the political aisle, it is almost comical for the state of New Hampshire to impose a pay-to-play system for accessing information that should be readily available. 

As student-journalists of Plymouth State University, we find this bill abhorrent and urge the House to vote no and protect our right to know.