Posted on Mar 4, 2019 in Featured, What's New

One of the duties of the state Office of Information Practices (OIP) is to monitor and testify on legislative proposals and make recommendations to the Legislature.  OIP tracks proposals directly or indirectly affecting the UIPA, Sunshine Law, or open data issues, including proposals on other topics that have confidentiality provisions or exemptions from the UIPA or Sunshine Law.  For the 2019 legislative session, OIP did a word search of all 3,142 bills that were introduced, has been monitoring 145 bills, and testified 54 times on 33 bills.

The non-budget legislative proposals that survived the first half of the 2019 session were decked on March 1, 2019, so here is a summary of the four open government bills that continue to be alive for legislative consideration in the second half.  Eight proposals addressing other topics where OIP testified on confidentiality provisions or other language of concern are also still alive but are not listed here; six of those have already been amended to address OIP’s concerns.  The bills listed below directly affect the UIPA or Sunshine Law, and  OIP will continue to testify on all of them for the remainder of the session.

S.B. 335, S.D. 2 – Relating to Public Meetings.  Amends the Sunshine Law to require the meeting notice to include instructions for requesting an accommodation, and to also require boards to retain proof of filing with the Lieutenant Governor or County Clerk.  OIP supports the intent of this bill but preferred the (now dead) House version.

S.B. 748, S.D. 1 – Relating to Board Members.  Permits one or more board members to attend ceremonial addresses for the State of the City, State of the County, State or the State, or State of the Judiciary.  The S.D. 1 included a limiting amendment recommended by OIP, and OIP now supports this bill.

H.B. 285, H.D. 1 – Relating to Public Safety.  Requires county police departments to disclose to Legislature the identity of an officer upon an officer’s suspension or discharge and amends the UIPA to allow for disclosure of employment misconduct information of county police officer after suspension (current law requires this only after termination).  OIP supports this bill.

H.B. 362, H.D. 1 – Relating to Information Practices.  Amends the UIPA to disclose only salary ranges, not exact salaries, for officers, staff, agency directors, and employees of the Legislative branch.  OIP has concerns regarding the uneven treatment this bill proposes for treatment of legislative employees’ salaries versus those of other government employees, as well as the overly broad category of legislative employees covered by the bill.

The budget bills need not be decked for another week, until March 11, 2019.  OIP remains particularly concerned about its budget, which is less than half of the amount that it had 25 years ago, even though it is now doing more than twice the work.  In FY 1994, when OIP administered only the UIPA, it had 15 authorized positions and was allocated $827,537, which is the inflation-adjusted equivalent of $1,403,003 today.  Now, for FY 2019, OIP’s budget is under $700,000 and it has 8.5 authorized positions to administer the UIPA and Sunshine Law and assist with open data issues.  Because of the different procedures that the Legislature is using this session to consider appropriation bills, OIP, like all other government agencies, has been closely tracking a number of bills that may potentially affect its budget.