Adapting to Changing Public Record Legislation
2022 Legislative Sessions are in full swing and for many states across the country, this means public records laws are once again in the spotlight. While some states move to expand public record access, others attempt to add exemptions.
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Some Hawaii agencies are pushing a bill that would limit public access to government records
The University of Hawaii and other state agencies are asking lawmakers to make it easier to restrict public access to a whole class of government records, a move that would undermine a far-reaching ruling by the state Supreme Court in 2018.
House Bill 2303 would amend the state open records law to specifically allow public agencies to keep secret certain “drafts, internal memoranda and correspondence” and other “pre-decisional materials” that are part of the agencies’ internal decision-making processes.
The proposed new law would allow those records to be withheld from the public if disclosure “would impair the agency’s ability to make sound and fair decisions, but only to the extent that such impairment outweighs the public interest in disclosure.”
Read More | Honolulu Civil Beat
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“Garrity bill,” exempting some Utah statements from public records requests, advances
A bill that would make it harder for reporters and the public to obtain certain statements, known as Garrity statements, made by government employees during internal investigations advanced to the full House after a hearing Friday [Feb. 18] morning.
The House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee voted to send House Bill 399 to the full House after a hearing in which the mother of a man shot by police testified.
It targets the types of public records available through GRAMA, Utah’s Government Records Access and Management Act.
H.B. 399 affects a small part of GRAMA. Specifically, it would impact official, compelled statements made by government employees as part of an internal investigation.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Ryan Wilcox, R-Ogden, says his bill would allow public employees to share their concerns and statements without fear of trial in the court of public opinion.
Read More | KSL News Radio
Kentucky Senate gets bill that would shield some information about public officials
The Kentucky Senate is advancing a controversial proposal to block the release of some information held in public records about a broad category of current and retired public officials, including judges, prosecutors, police officers, corrections officers and social workers, as well as their immediate families.
The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday [Feb. 17] voted 9-to-2 to approve Senate Bill 63 and send it to the full Senate.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Benton, said his bill is meant to stop the disclosure of “personally identifiable information” about people involved in the criminal justice system. Carroll is a retired police officer.
Read More | Lexington Herald Leader
Bill that passed Virginia House would close records of completed police investigations
The Virginia Senate will consider a bill the House passed that would significantly scale back a 2021 law that allows public access to closed police investigative files.
The House of Delegates earlier this month passed a bill from Del. Rob Bell, that would essentially undo the 2021 law and again give police agencies and Virginia’s elected prosecutors discretion over what to release, said Megan Rhyne, executive director of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government, a nonprofit.
When police had full discretion previously, they generally did not release records even in closed cases.
The 2021 law has been on the books for just seven months.
If passed, [the legislation] would allow only certain people to obtain records in closed police investigations: A victim, the victim’s next of kin if the victim is deceased, or an attorney representing someone in a request for a writ of actual innocence.
Read More | Richmond Times-Dispatch
Maryland legislators look to expand law preserving public records
Lawmakers in Annapolis are looking to expand the state’s public records laws after reports that Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and his staff use mobile apps that can automatically delete messages after a certain amount of time.
Stewart told members of the House Health and Government Operations Committee that HB 395 will “essentially modernize the language and ensure that the record retention schedules include written, electronic, or recorded communications between state officials about state business.”
The bill also specifically clarifies that the governor can be considered a “unit of government,” a technicality that executives from both parties have tried to quibble with in years past. It’s never been directly litigated and Stewart said he doubts the argument would hold up if it was.
Read More | WTOP News
Adapting to Changing Public Record Legislation
Public records laws vary widely across the country. Regardless of a state’s regulations, legislation continuously evolves in response to changes in the public records landscape and society’s needs. Laws can change when there is a push to strengthen and improve transparency and might include altering existing laws or creating new, more comprehensive ones. Jurisdictions are charged with tracking changing legislation and adapting to new laws in the name of remaining compliant.
Tracking legislation changes can present a challenge for states; the process of carrying out changes in the laws tends to be complex and may require additional resources. But legislation’s impact on public records cannot be understated.
Read More | GovQA – Now Part of Granicus
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The Peers in Public Records Newsletter (formerly FOIA News) is a bi-monthly e-newsletter brought to you by GovQA. It is a collection of the latest trends in public record requests and government transparency initiatives, shared stories, informative case studies, and actionable knowledge that will help you calm the chaos and keep your organization compliant. Send your comments to email@example.com.