On the Move: 2022 Public Records Legislation

The 2022 legislative session is bringing government transparency to the forefront. Some states make moves to expand transparency efforts, while others add to their growing list of public record exemptions – potentially increasing their chance of litigation.

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Featured

Oklahoma senator scrapping bills related to Open Records Act

A week after an Oklahoma state senator introduced two bills that could have had a chilling effect on the Open Records Act, he’s scrapping both, saying, “it wasn’t ready this year.”

Senate Bill 1272, by Sen. Tom Dugger, R-Stillwater, would modify the fee schedule for open record requests, and Senate Bill 1256 restricts law enforcement records available for public inspection and could alter information disclosed in affidavits.

Publicity about the bills from journalists and Freedom of Information advocates created backlash that forced Dugger to take another look.

A special interest group had lobbied for the bills on behalf of Oklahoma City, prompting Oklahoma State University Communications Associate Professor Joey Senat, an advisory board member for FOI Oklahoma, and Steve Lackmeyer, an Oklahoma City reporter and columnist, to ask Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt via Twitter about the bills.

Read More | The Huntsville Item

Public Records Solutions Webinar: Cost Reduction & Cost Recovery

Join GovQA on Thurs., Feb. 10th for a webinar on Solutions for Growing Volume, Complexity, and Budget Shortfalls.

Here, we’ll cover the impact of increasing volume and complexity of record requests, and provide solutions for reducing or recovering costs associated with fulfilling public records requests including those for materials, services and litigation – while improving your customer experiences.

Learn more and Register >>>

LEGISLATION

Florida lawmakers creating new ways to keep public records private

[Florida] Lawmakers have filed more than 50 bills, either adding new exemptions to the state’s public records law or sparking what are known as open government sunset reviews, which make previously public information secret.

During the first week of session, which began Jan. 11, no less than 20 of those bills cleared their first review committees, including a highly contentious proposal to shield the names of people applying to be state university presidents until finalists are selected.

“There are some really bad exemption bills this year,” said Pamela Marsh, president of the First Amendment Foundation, a nonpartisan open-government watchdog. “Seems to me the focus should be on redistricting and other timely topics, rather than hiding more information from the public.”

Lawmakers proposing public records exemptions must clearly state the reason that privacy interests outweigh the public’s right to know and make their exemption narrowly tailored. Sometimes, however, bills offer broad exemptions and vague reasons for the need.

Read More | Tallahassee Democrat

Michigan Senators target Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit Zoo with public records, open meetings bills

The Detroit Institute of Arts and the Detroit Zoo would have to comply with public records requests and hold open meetings under legislation introduced Tuesday [Jan. 18] in the Michigan Senate.

The bills from Metro Detroit Sens. Jim Runestad and Ruth Johnson would amend the state’s Open Meetings Act and Freedom of Information Act to include the Detroit institutions because they receive taxpayer funds through regional operating millages.

“With public funding, comes public accountability,” Runestad, a White Lake Republican, said in a statement. “Voters in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties contribute millions to the DIA and Detroit Zoological Society annually through their property taxes, making up a significant portion of the operating budgets for these institutions. It’s incumbent upon the Legislature to require that decisions made on taxpayer dollars are done in the open.”

Read More | The Detroit News

LITIGATION

Minneapolis, Minnesota argues to dismiss lawsuit on Minneapolis Police Department [MPD] 'coaching' data

When Minneapolis police officers are disciplined for misconduct, some data, by law, is supposed to be accessible to the public.

But a lawsuit filed by the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information claims Minneapolis is keeping some records private because MPD is “coaching” officers instead of disciplining them.

They grew suspicious when running into road blocks while trying to look into former officer Derek Chauvin’s past.

According to the city, between 2013 and 2019 there were more than 2,000 complaints against MPD officers and the city found 373 of them to have merit. Of those, 334 resulted in coaching and just 39 in “discipline.”

“We’re saying that coaching is discipline, full-stop,” said attorney Leita Walker for the plaintiff.

Walker argues that the judge should determine that what MPD is calling “coaching” in many cases, really is discipline, and those cases should be made public.

Read More | Kare 11 News

Judge grants ACLU’s request for injunction protecting Inglewood police conduct records

A judge on Tuesday, Jan. 18, granted a request by the ACLU of Southern California for a preliminary injunction preventing the Inglewood Police Department from destroying some use-of-force and other officer misconduct records the ACLU wants to examine.

“The balance of harm weighs heavily in favor of granting the preliminary injunction,” Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mary H. Strobel wrote.

On Jan. 28, Judge David Cowan issued a temporary restraining order against the city. The ACLU petition, brought Dec. 23, seeks the information under the California Public Records Act and Senate Bill 1421, which was enacted in 2018 by the state Legislature and enables the public to access peace officer records concerning uses of force and police misconduct that had been previously unavailable.

The ACLU’s petition asks for records that involve uses of force causing death or great bodily injury, discharges of firearms at a person, sustained findings of sexual assault involving a member of the public and sustained findings of dishonesty in the reporting, investigation or prosecution of a crime or investigation of misconduct.

Read More | Los Angeles Daily News

PEER RESOURCE

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.

Learn more

Read More | GovQA – Now Part of Granicus

GovQA's Upcoming Events

GovQA’s hosts and moderates events to create and expand opportunities for state and local government agency members to discuss the challenges they face.

ARMA Chicago: Changes in RIM 

Public Records Solutions Webinar: Cost Reduction & Cost Recovery

NAGARA Winter Online Forum: Information Governance

FOIA Compliance in Education: Leveraging Stimulus Funds for Response Technology 

See All Upcoming Events

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 peers@govqa.com.

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