Sunday, March 23, 2014

Public Records Reform Legislation Gutted

Last week (March 16-22) was "National Sunshine Week", an event which promotes the importance of open government and freedom of information.  To celebrate the occasion, a Maryland legislative committee gutted a bill which would have provided new oversight and greatly enhanced the Maryland Public Information Act (Maryland's equivalent of the FOIA).

We previously wrote about the bill, which would have created an public information compliance board, which would have provided a practical means of appeals if access to public records was obstructed by a local or state agency.  The bill had strong support from organizations representing the press and civil liberties groups, and no organizations appeared to speak in opposition to the bill at the committee hearing.  The fiscal policy notes for the bill concluded the committee could be established using existing resources (ie, the cost to taxpayers would have been essentially nothing).

True to form, the "Health And Government Operations" committee chose to amend the bill, blowing away it's entire contents and instead resolving to merely conduct a study on the matter and think about the issue.  The amended and now essentially impotent bill then passed the House with ease.
A Model in "How To Kill A Good, Popular Bill Without Having To Go On Record Against It"
Meanwhile, state lawmakers are looking forward to their 15.7% pay raise for the bang-up job they have been doing.