Public Records and 2020’s Ripple Effect

Even a year out, events of 2020 such as the pandemic and civil unrest continue to impact how governments define and release record requests to the public.

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Pennsylvania House OKs bill to make more pandemic data publicly available

A proposal to expand public access to reports about COVID-19 and other diseases passed the Pennsylvania House of Representatives on Monday [Oct. 4] after Republicans argued it would help people decide how to react to pandemics and other outbreaks.

The House voted on party lines, 113-87, to amend the Disease Prevention and Control Law, supplanting an existing section on the confidentiality of reports and records with direction that any records “maintained as a result of any action taken in consequence of such reports or any other records maintained” under the law would instead be subject to the Right-to-Know Law.

The bill, argued Speaker Bryan Cutler, “would allow us as consumers, as residents, us as patients, to have access to good data so we can make good decisions.” He says the sort of data the bill might produce includes vaccination and infection rates by school district.

Read More | 90.5 WESA News

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New California law expands public access to police misconduct records

California’s governor signed a package of public safety measures [on Sept. 30], including SB 16, which clarifies and expands on the law requiring the disclosure of police records. The new law provides agencies with more specific guidance on how and when to disclose police personnel records.

The procedural changes to the law—like timing for disclosure and mandating certain retention periods—go into effect in 2022. More substantive changes—including expanding the scope of disclosures required by adding four new categories of records for release—will not be implemented until 2023. This delayed enactment gives local agencies a year to prepare for the disclosure of the backlog of police records that will surely be requested in light of this new law. A flurry of litigation may also ensue and disputes over the law’s application will garner substantial public interest.

Read More | JD Spura


Lawsuit says video of St. Louis jail altercation destroyed or withheld

A lawsuit says that jail officials either destroyed or have not turned over video of an altercation between an inmate in the St. Louis Justice Center and a guard in July.

The suit, filed in St. Louis Circuit Court on Oct. 1, says city officials are violating the law by failing to turn over the video. Officials did not say the video was exempt from release under the Sunshine Law, the suit says. The act requires public bodies to turn over records unless they have a legal reason to withhold them. Officials have either failed to turn over the video, destroyed it or allowed it to be destroyed, the suit says.

Read More | St. Louis Post-Dispatch


The New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department launches public records portal

The New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department is making it easier to request public records. The department launched a new records management system called GovQA.

“The new portal will help manage the large number of IPRA requests we receive. Our goal is to make sure that your personal information is safe while ensuring that the public can obtain records they are entitled to. This new automated system will help with that,” said Records Custodian Sharon Kirkpatrick in a news release from the department.

Read More | KRQE News

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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

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