Transparency Bills Sweep the Nation

Events of 2020 have states reexamining public record law language to better define who and what are subject to public record requests.

Subscribe to the Peers in Public Records Newsletter

Let GovQA do the heavy lifting and receive the latest trends in public record requests and government transparency initiatives around the U.S., right to your inbox.

Share your expertise, a ‘quick tip’, or a positive story to be featured in Peers in Public Records. Send your submissions to peers@govqa.com

Featured

Michigan House backs bipartisan push to include governor, lawmakers under open records act

Michigan House lawmakers want to make it easier for people to obtain records from the governor and the Legislature. But they’ve pushed this rock up the hill before, only to see their efforts ignored in the Senate.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers in the House hope this legislative session is different. On Thursday, [Mar. 4] the House Oversight Committee reviewed 10 bills that would expand Michigan’s open records law so that the highest elected leaders in the state would need to turn over some records when requested.

“The people in Michigan deserve more transparency in their state government, including their elected officials. I think recent events really highlight the need for some sort of FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) expansion here in Michigan,” Rep. Pat Outman, R-Six Lakes, said.

Read More | Detroit Free Press

Legislation

Texas Senator files bills supporting open government reform

Texas Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, filed a series of bills Tuesday [Mar. 2] to reform the state’s open government laws, specifically the Texas Open Meetings Act (TOMA) and Texas Public Information Act (TPIA).

Seven proposals were filed as Senate Bills (SB) 924-930 and also were combined into an omnibus bill, SB 923, captioned “relating to open government.”

Zaffirini’s office says the senator’s proposals would address some of the state’s most pressing and emergent transparency issues. By defining “business day” in the TPIA, for example, SB 925 would close a loophole that has allowed some entities to avoid public information requests permanently by claiming every day as a “skeleton crew” day, which currently is not considered a business day.

Read More | Fox 7 News

Transparency experts fear bill will 'weaken' Kentucky's open records law

The Kentucky General Assembly is weighing significant changes to the state’s public records law, a key tool used by journalists, businesses and citizens to access government documents.

House Bill 312, a Republican-sponsored measure meant to clean up a law on financial institutions, was rewritten last Thursday [Feb. 25] in a committee to alter the open records act, then voted out of the House of Representatives largely along party lines the next day.

The bill would create a residency requirement for open records requests, banning anyone living outside Kentucky from seeking records, along with out-of-state news organizations that don’t have an in-state affiliate and companies not registered in Kentucky.

Read MoreWDRB.com

Arkansas Senate Bill 208 could broaden the definition of a public meeting

An Arkansas state senator has proposed a bill that would broaden the definition of a public meeting, both in-person and electronic.

Senate Bill 208, if passed, would lower the number of city directors required to constitute a “meeting,” going against the Arkansas Supreme Court’s 2019 decision in Wade v. City of Fort Smith that three city directors and City Administrator Carl Geffken did not violate the law in a private email exchange.

The bill, sponsored by District 21 state Sen. Dan Sullivan, defines a “meeting” as the gathering of two or more members of a governing body to discuss matters, including through telephone or electronically. The bill applies to all governing bodies in Arkansas and public bodies supported by or using public funds except for grand juries.

Read MoreTimes Record

New Mexico may discipline, fine workers who release records

State employees could be fired or fined up to $5,000 for identifying people who receive public benefits or for releasing information about an individual’s immigration status, national origin, religion or sexual orientation, under a bill endorsed Monday [Mar. 1] by New Mexico’s Senate.

The bill advanced on a 34-6 vote of the Senate over the objections of government transparency advocates and the state attorney general’s office that oversees education and enforcement of the state Inspection of Public Records Act. State health officials still worry the bill could interfere with the sharing of data among government agencies.

Read MoreHuron Daily Tribune

Litigation

Should New Jersey name disciplined cops? Top court is considering plan to reverse policy dating back decades

New Jersey’s top court heard arguments Tuesday [Mar. 2] about whether the names of officers found guilty of misconduct should be made public, the final stop in a months-long legal battle between the state’s top law enforcement official and a coalition of police unions.

Unlike many states, New Jersey generally doesn’t name officers who received “major discipline,” which can be used in cases involving abuse of family members, drinking on the job or giving false testimony.

State Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced the plan to release names last summer and a representative told the Supreme Court Tuesday [Mar. 2] that disclosure would help the public hold cops accountable.

Police unions disagreed, and raised the specter of a deadly attack on a judge’s home to argue that publicizing the names of cops who had received suspensions threatened those officers and their families.

Read More | NJ.com

Peer Resource

PiPRPodcast: Managing Change

Episode 3 of the Peers in Public Records Podcast (PiPRPodcast) is the first in a series that will touch on the initial needs and game plan for prioritizing Change Management within your organization.

GovQA’s Chief Evangelist, Jen Snyder is joined by Spencer Stern, Director of Microsoft Dynamics Practice for Catapult Systems, as they begin to unpack the need to prioritize change management when embarking on projects.

Listen to Episode 3 of the PiPRPodcast

Read More | GovQA

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.

Subscribe to the Peers in Public Records Newsletter