Monday, July 06, 2015
Ind. Gov't. - "GOP lawmakers, Scott Walker abandon open records changes"
Updating this long ILB post from July 4th (""Wisconsin Republicans vote to dramatically scale back oversight of lawmakers"), Wisconsin now has backed down, for now, according to this story yesterday by Mary Spicuzza in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Some quotes:
Faced with a swift and fierce backlash, Republicans on Saturday abandoned a plan that would have gutted the state's open records law.ILB: If this sounds familiar, see this long list of ILB posts about the similar, and ongoing, efforts of the Indiana House.
In a joint statement issued Saturday afternoon, Gov. Scott Walker and GOP legislative leaders said the provisions relating to any changes to the law would be removed from the state budget.
"After substantive discussion over the last day, we have agreed that the provisions relating to any changes in the state's open records law will be removed from the budget in its entirety. We are steadfastly committed to open and accountable government," the statement read. "The intended policy goal of these changes was to provide a reasonable solution to protect constituents' privacy and to encourage a deliberative process between elected officials and their staff in developing policy. It was never intended to inhibit transparent government in any way."
The announcement came from Walker, but it was also attributed to Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester), Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette). Darling and Nygren are co-chairs of the Joint Finance Committee.
They added, "In order to allow for further debate on this issue outside of budget process, the Legislature will form a Legislative Council committee to more appropriately study it and allow for public discussion and input." * * *
The turnaround came less than 48 hours after lawmakers slipped the plan into the budget unannounced in a late-night session heading into a three-day holiday weekend. * * *
The open records overhaul was blasted by a broad range of liberals and conservatives alike, who said the move would lead to a secretive government hidden from public oversight.
On Saturday, Walker did not specifically say whether he and his office were part of planning the proposed open records changes, or whether he objected to them in advance. * * *
The Legislature's Joint Finance Committee tucked the changes to the open records law into the version of the state budget proposal it passed late Thursday. The changes were sweeping and would essentially have allowed public officials to keep secret records that reveal how they do their jobs. * * *
The proposed GOP plan would have limited public records requests for lawmakers' communications with their staffs and for drafting records of legislation after it was introduced. It would have also exempted a host of records created by Walker's administration, state agencies and local governments and put new limits on public access to information about dismissed criminal charges in some instances.
The measure would also have given lawmakers a broad legal privilege that would allow them to refrain from releasing records when they are sued and bar their current and former staff members from disclosing information legislators wanted kept private.