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New bill proposed that would grant student media organizations access to free public records

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BATON ROUGE - A Louisiana state rep. is proposing a bill that would grant student media organizations access to free public records.

State Rep. Dixon McMakin (R) said the bill will increase accountability and transparency at the university level.

“It's unfortunate to see that sometimes when [students] do a public records request, they can't follow up on it because the university charges fees,” McMakin said.

McMakin believes public records are the key to holding those in power accountable and supplying the community with factual evidence.

With 15 universities in the state of Louisiana, McMakin says the bill would be a game changer for a wide variety of students.

“What I hope it will do for student media organizations is empower them to be the forefront when it comes to investigations and to holding the universities accountable,” McMakin said.

Current LSU Journalism Professor Christopher Drew says this could clear the hurdles that have stood in the way for so many young journalists. 

“The state law is very good,” Drew said. “It says the records have to be produced in three days, and a lot of agencies do produce some quickly. Some take longer, but the benefits of that law are negated if you're going to charge a student media organization $100 to $200 or more just to get copies of records.”

Drew and McMakin say students shouldn’t be burdened by additional fees for public records, especially since they are already paying the high cost of their tuition.

“There's really no good reason to stall, to delay, to ask for more money to produce them because they’re still going to have to produce them in the end, so all you do is create suspicion about what you are trying to hide when you do this kind of thing,” Drew said.

The session will start on Monday and run until June 2, 2024. McMakin says he will see this bill through to the end. If it doesn’t pass this session, he will bring it up again next term.

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