Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Bill that was supposed to improve government access now would restrict it

House Majority Leader Ken Martinez, D-Grants, said he can't support a bill he sponsored that aims to provide better access to public records because of proposed exemptions to the State's Inspection of Public Records Act..

At a meeting of the House Health and Government Affairs Committee, a variety of executive agencies wanted several exceptions to the state’s Inspection of Public Records Act, Martinez said. As a committee substitute for the bill (HB 507) is currently drafted, it’s not something Martinez can support.

“I didn’t want it to be a bill about exemptions,” he said. “This bill wasn’t about all that.”

The proposed exemptions include “records of a public body, that, by their nature, must be confidential in order for the public body to avoid the frustration or a legitimate government function.”

It also would exempt “records contained in or related to examination, operating or condition reports prepared by, on behalf of or for the use of a public body responsible for the regulation or supervision of financial institutions.”

Another proposed change in the bill says that nothing in the records act “shall be construed to require a public body to provide records pursuant to that act to a party with whom it is in litigation.”

Among other things, Martinez’s bill would speed up the response time for agencies to produce records under the records act.

Currently, agencies have three days to respond to a request for records and 15 days to produce the information unless they need more time. The bill would give an agency 10 days to produce records.

It also makes clear that an e-mail is recognized as an official request for records under the act.

Martinez said Wednesday evening he’ll work to restore the bill to its original form. The bill is still in the HHGAC.

I will be following this bill and am hoping to get an electronic copy of the committee substitute I can link to here.

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