House Judiciary to Send Open Government Bills to Final Committee

Posted on Mar 19, 2012 in What's New

March 19, 2012

The state Office of Information Practices (OIP) is pleased to report that the House Judiciary Committee has voted to pass house drafts of OIP’s appeals and Sunshine Law bills on to the House Finance Committee. Also moving on to the Finance Committee is the Administration’s bill to allow teleconferenced meetings.

At a House Judiciary Committee hearing held on March 16, 2012, the appeals bill, S.B. 2858, S.D. 1, was amended at the request of the League of Women Voters to add a provision clarifying that if an agency does not timely appeal an OIP decision such that the requester must go to court to force the agency to comply, then the agency will not have the opportunity to challenge the decision at that point. This provision would be a disincentive to keep the agency from indefinitely stalling and refusing to disclose a record, despite an OIP determination that disclosure is mandated under the UIPA. Instead, an agency would be motivated to promptly exercise its new appeal rights that are being created by S.B. 2858, S.D. 1, H.D. 1. The bill was further amended by the House Judiciary Committee to correct the intentionally defective date inserted by the Senate and it now restores the January 1, 2013 effective date.

The House Judiciary Committee also made minor amendments OIP’s Sunshine Law bill,S.B. 2859, S.D. 1. Both the appeals and Sunshine Law bills will go to the House Finance Committee.

At the previous day’s hearing, the House Judiciary Committee reported out S.B. 2737, S.D 1 with House Draft 1, which makes a major change to the Sunshine Law’s public meeting requirement. The committee voted to add the word “public” on page 2, lines 17 and 22, of S.B. 2737, S.D. 1, which would require the Sunshine Law notice to identify all of the “public locations” where participating board members will be physically present and indicate that members of the public may join board members at any of the “identified public locations.” This amendment effectively removes the current requirement for all meetings to allow physical access by members of the public, as board members would now be able to participate in meetings from the privacy of their homes. The amendment would also allow board meetings to be held via webinars or teleconferences where board members and members of the public would log in or call in to participate in the meeting. Although the amendment was proposed in order to accommodate disabled board members, it may have unintended consequences that could reduce the ability of members of the public, whether or not disabled, to participate in public meetings. S.B. 2737, S.D. 1, H.D. 1 will be referred next to the House Finance Committee.

Today, the Senate Committees on Economic Development and Technology and on Judiciary and Labor will hear H.B. 2404, H.D. 1, relating to the electronic posting of public meeting minutes.

For the latest on open government news, look here on the What’s New page, or ask to be placed on OIP’s e-mail list for weekly What’s New updates.