Legislative Update: Feb. 11, 2019.

Legislative Update: Feb. 11, 2019

Here’s the updated WCOG Bill Status Report as of the morning of Monday, Feb. 11, 2019. Five more bills impacting on open government were introduced this past week, for a total of 77 that we’re now tracking. Most of the new bills contain routine exemptions similar to existing ones protecting confidential proprietary or financial information provided to regulatory agencies by the regulated companies.

Please confirm hearing times, as the legislature has cancelled or postponed some hearings because of inclement weather.

One bill of note is:

SB 5835 (Link) – Creating a hotline to receive reports of potential self-harm and criminal acts. Section 3 creates new exemptions under the Public Records Act for any records or information submitted to the hotline, as well as any records of contacts referred from the hotline to a law enforcement or mental health agency. Neither of these exemptions are referenced from within the PRA. It makes it a crime to release records except as provided by the law. It requires that if no referral is made or that no action is warranted that the records of the hotline contact must be immediately destroyedThis combination of secrecy and destruction ensures that no independent watchdog will be able to hold the hotline accountable or monitor its effectiveness. Needless to say, we have CONCERNS about this bill. At the very least, the exemptions should apply only to personally-identifying information so that it is possible to track how well the hotline does in fulfilling its intended mission.

You’ll note on the list of upcoming hearings and executive that several bills we’re supporting or opposing have scheduled action this coming week. Again, confirm the hearing dates and times, as the legislature has rescheduled some meetings due to snow.

State Government & Tribal Relations (House) – HHR E, JLOB – 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 12 

  • HB 1692 (Link) – Exec Session – Protecting information concerning agency employees who have filed a claim of harassment or stalkingWe’ve been working with the bill sponsor to amend it to make it clear that it doesn’t apply to “harassment” such as “making too many records requests,” but we’re still concerned that it will make it difficult for people falsely accused of sexual harassment to obtain records necessary to clear their name.
  • HB 1782 (Link) – Exec Session – Concerning public meetings of advisory groups established by local governments and other agenciesWe’re working with the sponsor to amend the bill so that it will actually accomplish the intended purpose of opening up advisory committee meetings to the public.

State Government, Tribal Relations & Elections (Senate) – SHR 2, JACB – 8 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 13 

  • SB 5784 (Link) – Public Hearing – Concerning records disclosure and retention obligations of the legislative branchWe have many concerns about special treatment for legislative records, especially the permanent exemption of records that would help voters understand who is seeking to influence legislation and whether legislators are making good choices and analyzing all available policy options.

State Government & Tribal Relations (House) – HHR E, JLOB – 8 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 15

  • HB 1195 (Link) – Exec Session – Concerning the efficient administration of campaign finance and public disclosure reporting and enforcementWe continue to be concerned that the attorney general would be able to block citizen action to enforce campaign finance laws by simply announcing they have no intention to pursue a case.
  • HB 1538 (Link) – Exec Session – Concerning Sunshine Committee recommendationsSupport the unanimous recommendations of the Sunshine Committee.
  • HB 1667 (Link) – Exec Session – Concerning public records request administrationSupport the continuation of the local government records technology grant program and the expert consultation programs for local government in the state archives and the office of the attorney general.
  • HB 1537 (Link) – Exec Session – Concerning Sunshine Committee recommendationsSupport the unanimous recommendations of the Sunshine Committee.

State Government, Tribal Relations & Elections (Senate) – SHR 2, JACB – 1:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 15 

  • SB 5787 (Link) – Public Hearing – Concerning hours of availability for inspection and copying of public recordsWe oppose giving ANY agencies 30 days or more to provide even an initial acknowledgement of having received a public records request. EVERY agency, even the smallest ones that have no employees and just three commissioners, can have an email address to receive public records requests and act more quickly than 30 days.

If you have the opportunity while waiting out the storm, please take a few minutes to write to your legislators and let them know what you think about these bills and others. The deadline for policy bills to be voted out of committee in their House of Origin is coming up quickly on Friday, Feb. 22, so there will be a huge amount of committee activity for the next two weeks!

Here is our complete list of 2019 Legislative priorities.

Thanks for contacting your legislators about the ones of concern to you!