Sunday, January 03, 2010

Proposed reforms in state sunshine laws - 2009

Read more at Sunshine Review
Location Oakland, Ca - Private Investigator

Alabama Public Records Law

House Bill 154 [1] would prohibit the transferring of funds from one political action committee to another.[1] It was passed in the House on February 12, 2009 and sent to the Senate as Senate Bill 207 where it has been assigned to the Constitutions and Election Committee.[2] The Alabama legislature has passed bills banning the transfer of these funds among political action committees each year beginning in 2000, but the bills have never become law.[2] The state legislature has received criticism for failing to pass this legislation with a local newspaper asking, "Is transparency not that important to members of the Alabama Senate?" [3] Law

House Bill 295 [4] would require the public disclosure of the names of public officials, spouses of public officials or candidates who have a contract with or are employed by the state, county, or a municipality.[4] It was assigned to the Government Operations Committee on February 26, 2009.[4] Its companion bill in the Senate is Senate Bill 208.[5]

House Bill 876 [6] seeks to make poll lists signed by voters the property of political parties and thereby subject to the open records law.[6] Law

Senate Bill 207 [7] is the companion bill to House Bill 154.

Senate Bill 208 [5] is the companion bill to House Bill 295. It was assigned to the Constitution, Campaign Finance, Ethics and Elections Committees in the Senate.[5] Law

Senate Bill 353 [8] would make any meeting in which a state party participates in the meeting subject to the state's Open Meetings Act.[8] It is currently being held in the Governmental Affairs Committee of the Senate.[8]

Senate Bill 399 [9] seeks to make background checks performed on employees of secondary education institutions confidential and not subject to public records laws.[9] It has been assigned to the Education Committee in the Senate.[9]

Arizona Public Records Law

* "Authored by Sen. Jay Tibshraeny, R-Chandler, Senate Bill 1305 would require public bodies that keep public records electronically to provide them upon request on CD-ROM or in another format." [10]

* The Board of Supervisors in Maricopa County in January 2009 passed a resolution that says that when county employees and officials want public documents that are in the custody of the county, the employees/officials are required to go through an internal process rather than using the state's sunshine law to ask for records. This action was taken in response to multiple requests in the last few months from the Maricopa County sheriff and attorney offices for documents relating to:

* A planned criminal court-tower project. * Communication between county officials and public-relations and consulting firms. * The Board of Supervisor's decision to hire former County Attorney Rick Romley as a consultant.[11]

Open records advocates in the state have protested the new county-wide law. [edit] Arkansas

Arkansas Freedom of Information Act

House Bill 1049 [12] is one of several bills proposed by Rep. Dan Greenberg that are designed to strengthen the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act. It provides for review of a FOIA denial by the Attorney Generals' Office.[12] It was referred to the State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee in the House in January of 2009 where it remains as of April 2009.[12]

* House Bill 1050 [13] requires new laws that create exemptions to FOIA must identify with specificity which records or meetings the law exempts. Rep. Greenberg said, “This is kind of a blinking red light, so that from now on when somebody tries to narrow the FOI, at least we’ll know”. [14] After failing to pass the House initially, Rep. Greenberg credits the further explanation he gave House members on the bill's passage on January 27, 2009. [15]

The Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee endorsed HB 1050, and proceeded to the Senate for a vote. [16] HB 1050 passed the Senate 33-2, and is now waiting for approval by Gov. Mike Beebe, whose office has stated that he plans to sign it into law. [17]

* House Bill 1051 [18], would allow access to criminal records for certain individuals. It was defeated 56-33, and a request by the sponsor to return the bill to committee was refused. [19]

* House Bill 1052,[20] would prohibit retaliation against government employees that file FOIA requests. [14] It was passed in the House and Senate and is awaiting the Governor's approval.[20]

* House Bill 1053 [21], known as "The Open Checkbooks in Government Act", would create an online database of state expenditures. It was referred to the State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee in the House.[21]

* House Bill 1091 [22] seeks to broaden the reasons for which a school board may go into executive session. It was passed in the House and Senate and is awaiting the Governor's approval.[22]

* House Bill 1326 [23] [24], sponsored by Rep. Lindsley Smith (D-Fayetteville), is a revised version of a bill that failed to pass in 2007. HB 1326 would allow FOIA plaintiffs that file claims with the Arkansas State Claims Commission to recover attorney fees in successful cases.[25] HB1326 has been approved by a House committee and now heads to the House as a whole. [26] It was passed in the House and Senate and is with the Governor for his approval.[23]

* House Bill 1623 [27] seeks to prevent the disclosure of information regarding concealed weapon carry licenses. It passed the House Judiciary Committee and moved to the House, where 54 members signed on as co-sponsors. [28] HB1623 has passed the House 98-1. [29] It passed the Senate 34-0 and returned to the House for concurrence on an amendment. [30] It has since been sent to the Governor for approval.[27]

* House Bill 2091 [31] seeks to establish transparency in the bidding process for publicly funded buildings, infrastructure and facilities. It was introduced in March of 2009.[31]

* Senate Bill 55 [32] seeks to increase transparency related to the salary of administrators in state funded higher education institutions. It was pass in both houses and is awaiting the Governor's approval.[32]

* Senate Bill 251 [33] would prohibit the release of information about motor vehicle accidents for commercial purposes until 90 days after the accident. The Arkansas Sheriffs Association and the Association of Arkansas Counties oppose the measure, saying that it "attacks a part of the foundation" of the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act. [34]

* Senate Bill 943 [35] seeks to improve parents' access to public school data on achievement gaps and on public school plans to close achievement gaps. The bill was passed in the House and Senate and awaits the Governor's signature.[35]

California Public Records Act

* Senate Bill 106 [36] seeks to add school districts, community college districts, and county boards of education to the definition of a local agency whose officials must receive ethics training on subjects such as open records laws. The bill was introduced on March 4, 2009 and remains in the Senate as of April 2009.[37]

* Senate Bill 218 [36] seeks to make the records of non-profit organizations associated with state agencies and universities subject to the Open Records law. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), who stated that "Taxpayers and students deserve to know how their public universities are run". [38] The bill was amended and sent back to the Senate's Judiciary Committee on April 27, 2009.[39]

* Senate Bill 502 [36] would require state agencies and departments to develop a searchable web site relating to the expenditures of state funds. The bill was referred to the Senate's Governmental Organization Committee in March of 2009.[40]

* Senate Bill 719 [36] would require state agencies and departments to develop and maintain a searchable web site that includes information relating to expenditures of state funds including contract grants, purchase orders, subcontracts, tax refunds, rebates and credits. The bill was referred to the Senate's Appropriations Committee in April of 2009.[41]

* Assembly Bill 400 sponsored by Assemblyman Kevin de Leon would require public disclosure of state spending by all departments.[36]It was referred to the Committee on Appropriations in April of 2009.[42]

* Assembly Bill 520 [43] would allow superior courts to issue protective orders limiting the number and scope of requests a person can make under the California Public Records Act if the court determines that the requester is seeking the records for an 'improper purpose' (including, but not limited to, harassing employees of state agencies).

The bill has received wide criticism, particularly for failing to define the term 'improper' with any specificity.[44] The California Newspapers Publishers Association wrote a letter to Assemblywoman Wilmer Amina Carter expressing their opposition to the bill and stating their position that "public access decisions must be made based on the law's presumption of access" and that "agencies must never be allowed to determine whether or not to comply with a request based on whether the request is for a use approved by the agency (i.e., a good use)".[45]

* Assembly Bill 1194 [36] would also require state agencies and departments to develop and maintain a searchable web site that includes information relating to expenditures of state funds. The bill was referred to the Business and Professions Committee in April of 2009.[46]