"At the minimum we would hope for greater compliance with the current law," he said. "Fifty percent compliance is not satisfactory."
State and local officials will have to take the initiative in improving records access, Marquardt said.
"The governor is the leader of the state and any initiative he takes is going to be appreciated by every citizen of Maryland," he said. "They look to him to set the pace."
Repeated requests for comment from Gov. Parris Glendening, through his press office, went unanswered.
Marquardt said Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. has agreed to sit down with the FOI committee to discuss the results, and a representative of the attorney general's office will talk at the press association's summer convention next week.
"[Curran] has been fair and open with the media," Marquardt said. "His track record shows he will keep an open mind and, if there is something the state can do to become better compliant, Joe Curran will step in and do it."
In Indiana, the governor signed an executive order creating a task force that eventually led to the appointment of a public access counselor where people could take complaints.
In Illinois, the House passed legislation giving the attorney general and local prosecutors the authority to overrule denials. The bill is now in the Senate.
Dalglish said the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press tracks the audits and results.
"In every state that has done this there has been a swift response from the legislature," she said. "[The audits] show us that these open records laws we have are really taken for granted."
She said Maryland's 50 percent compliance indicates deep-rooted problems.
"It reflects to me kind of a statewide bureaucratic secrecy culture, and it reflects to me that little effort in recent years has been put into open government."
Marquardt said the MDDC Freedom of Information subcommittee has put effort into making records more accessible, but legislators haven't been listening.
"Several years ago we went before the legislature to suggest the Public Information Act was insufficient," he said. "They said no. We decided to go out and test it, and this audit proves it is not being followed as much as the legislature would like to think."
Jim Lee is editor of the Carroll County Times and a member of the MDDC Freedom of Information subcommittee.