Public Record Refresh

States look to expand the public’s access to documents covered under public record laws.

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Featured

Michigan House votes 109-0 to open Legislature, governor to public records requests

The Michigan House voted unanimously Thursday [Mar. 18] to subject the governor and Legislature to public records requests — a vote that could end Michigan’s run as one of two states to exempt both of the bodies from disclosure requirements.

The bills head next to the Michigan Senate, where they have failed to garner support in past sessions, even as a liberal advocacy group has proposed a separate ballot initiative that it says goes further than the pending legislation in opening the offices to scrutiny.

House members argued the legislation was sorely need to restore public trust in state government at a time when that trust is at an all-time low.

Read More | The Detroit News

Legislation

Hawaii Bill that would bar suspension of public records requests during emergency advances

Hawaii Senate Bill 134, Senate Draft 1, introduced by Sen. Dru Kanuha, passed the House Pandemic & Disaster Preparedness Committee on Tuesday [Mar. 16] by a 9-0 vote, with one amendment.

Rep. Linda Ichiyama, the committee chair, amended the bill to specify that Hawaii Revised Statutes section 127 A-13(3), which gives the governor or mayor “the power to suspend any law that impedes … the expeditious and efficient execution of … emergency functions,” won’t be in conflict with the exemption stated in the measure.

Kanuha said he introduced the measure because he considers “transparency and access to public information … really important” — even during an emergency.

Read More | Hawaii Tribune Herald

Senate bill would reform Alabama’s public records law

Senate Bill 165 would repeal existing law providing access to public records and replace it with a new Alabama Public Records Act with provisions establishing the rights of citizens to access public records, enumerating exceptions to disclosure, establishing procedures for making and responding to requests for access, setting the charges associated with responding to requests, establishing a Public Access Counselor within the Alabama Department of Examiners of Public Accounts, creating administrative and judicial remedies, establishing criminal penalties for intentional false statements made during a request for records or an appeal under this act, and establishing civil penalties for noncompliance.

This act requires every government agency to appoint a custodian of records. A requestor of public records would have to apply to the custodian, who has the right to require the name of the requestor and that the request be in writing. The custodian has 14 calendar days to respond to a request.

Read More | Alabama Political Reporter

Litigation

City of Syracuse, New York police sued for denying access to police misconduct complaints

The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) has filed a lawsuit against the City of Syracuse and its police department, saying it had been denied access to certain police misconduct complaints despite state law.

NYCLU says it had a request into the police department in September seeking records and Syracuse Police denied those requests. The requests were for police misconduct complaints that both did and did not result in disciplinary action for the officer.

According to the lawsuit, the city later denied NYCLU’s appeal.

Read More | LocalSYR.com

Peer Resource

How Has the Pandemic Impacted Public Records? A Closer Look at Loudoun County

The unique events of 2020 changed the way we live and work and will likely have a long-term impact on industries across the board. GovQA Chief Evangelist Jen Snyder recently spoke with Emily Hayes, Assistant Deputy Clerk and FOIA Coordinator for Loudoun County, Virginia, about the pandemic’s impact on the public records space in that area of the country.

The situation in Loudoun County offers a glimpse into what other counties have dealt with since the onset of the pandemic. Operations shifted from in-person to online and communication changed; even the types of public requests and requesters looked different. Still, the public records space continues to roll with changes and look to the future.

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.

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