not believe they are furthering any sort of conspiracy to block the public's access to the workings of government. Instead, I believe they are sincerely attempting to address some loopholes in the current law that can be abused under certain circumstances.
HB12, which has passed the House but not the Senate, would clarify that personal notes between elected officials and employees of government entities are not public records. This is not a big change since the current law excludes from the definition of public record "materials that are not connected with the conduct of the public's business." I don't see why personal correspondence should be produced to the public as a government record.
HB28 (Substitute), which has passed the House but not the Senate, would prevent the disclosure of an official's personal contact information. This bill would not require the government to fulfill a person's records request if the information requested is accessible in the same physical form and content in a public publication produced by the governmental entity if the requester is told where the information may be located.
The bill also "allows" rather than "requires" a governmental entity to provide a record in a particular form if the governmental entity determines it is able to do so without unreasonably interfering with its duties. This provision would ostensibly prevent a small city from being effectively shut down by repeated large requests for information.
While personally I believe that elected officials should bend over backwards to make themselves available to the public, I do not oppose this bill in light of the serious threat of identity theft in our society.
SB15, which has passed the Senate but not the House, requires that GRAMA appeals be heard by the state records committee before the district court, unless both the requester and the governmental entity agree, in writing, to make an appeal directly to the court. This bill could save time and attorney's fees on both sides.
Although there is some reason for concern when the government proposes to tighten access to information, I believe that for the most part the media is blowing these proposed changes out of proportion.
There are valid reasons for each of the proposed changes, many of which have grown out of abuse of the current law. If all of the proposed changes were to be adopted (and that appears doubtful), I believe that the media as well as the public would still have reasonable access to public records and information.