The 2019 Legislative session is set to begin later this month, but legislators in Oregon already have a hefty number of public records related bills to look forward to. Although positive reforms are included in the list of proposed bills, one piece of legislation is causing a stir among transparency advocates.
Every person has a right to inspect public records in Oregon. But a bill introduced today would limit that right by forcing people to tell the government what they intend to do with the documents they are seeking: https://t.co/JYYX5AA1od #orpol #orleg— Gordon Friedman (@gordonrfriedman) January 10, 2019
Senate Bill 609, sponsored by Senator Betsy Johnson (D-Scappoose) at the request of former Representative Deborah Boone, would require requesters to disclose the intended use for records being requested with any state agency. Boone believes the bill would help eliminate requests that warrant for personal information.
“There are so many requests for emails and texts, sometimes tens of thousands, that require hours of someone’s time to research and at present the requestor does not have to disclose what they intend to do with the information,” said Boone via email to MuckRock.
Currently, OPRL does not require requesters to disclose their intended use for records. However, agencies can ask requesters why they are asking for records, but only when a fee waiver or fee reduction is being requested and an exemption on the basis of public records is being fought.
“Some of the information requested is personal in nature and is really none of anyone’s business. Oregon’s present law exempts several things but leaves the reason for request out. I think it is reasonable for the requestor to disclose their intentions. That is all it does,” added Boone.
OPRL has over 500 exemptions to its records law, which can be difficult to track and many lack sunset provisions. The text of the statute only contains seven, and the rest are included in provisions spread out across Oregon law.
SB 609 is just one of 11 new proposed transparency bills in Oregon’s 2019 Legislative Session. Ginger McCall, Oregon’s first Public Records Advocate, shared the full-list of proposed public records bills.
For those who are interested in #Oregon public records law, our office has put together a list of public records-related bills for the 2019 legislative session. https://t.co/5BFGm82nbn If we missed anything, let us know! #foia #transparency #orpol #orleg #opengov— Ginger McCall (@OregonPRA) January 11, 2019
Other bills include reducing request fees by 50 percent for news media, prohibiting the use of personal email for official business, and awarding attorney fees when agencies fail to respond to record requests.
Records requesters in the state have had long-standing issues with Oregon records law and its lack of enforcement. Some agencies in the state require requesters to “pre-pay” their fees, a provision not included under OPRL. Portland Police Bureau is notorious for requiring a “pre-payment” to complete records requests. Additionally, OPRL does not set a timeframe in which agencies are supposed to respond to records requests.
Legislators are set to discuss each of the proposed bills this upcoming session. You can track the status of bills through the Oregon Legislative Information site. The Oregon State Legislature will resume business on January 22nd, 2019.
The full list of bills is embedded below.
Do you have your own public records issues in your state? Let us know!
Image by ZehnKatzen via Wikimedia Commons and is licensed under CC BY 3.0