Proposed legislation enacts strict deadlines, caps fees, eliminates exemptions and provides better access to public meetings in order to improve access and accountability.
Attorney General John Kroger today unveiled details of a legislative proposal to overhaul Oregon’s Public Records Law and make government more transparent.
“Nearly 40 years after it was first adopted, Oregon’s Public Records Law is badly in need of reform,” said Attorney General Kroger. “There are far too many exemptions and there is vast uncertainty about how long it will take the public to get records and how much it will cost.”
Oregon received an ‘F’ in a 2007 study of government transparency among the 50 states. When Attorney General Kroger took office, he ordered a thorough review of state and federal sunshine laws. He also sponsored six public meetings across Oregon last year to gather suggestions for improving transparency from the public, government officials and the media. The conclusion was overwhelmingly clear: Oregon’s law is clogged with hundreds of confusing exemptions and requests for records are often met with high fee requirements and long delays.
The proposed bills announced today will enact strict deadlines for government agencies to respond to requests for public records. Fees that can be charged to the public will generally be capped at 3 times the minimum wage. Dozens of exemptions will be eliminated and those remaining will fall into 10 clear categories.
Exemptions to be eliminated include:
- Records of the governor’s disability panel, which convenes when there are serious questions about the governor’s fitness for duty, will be subject to disclosure following the conclusion of the panel’s work, unless otherwise exempt.
- Reports of waste, fraud and abuse made to the secretary of state, and resulting investigatory materials, will not be exempt after the investigation is concluded (subject to other exemptions); retain exemption for identity of complainant.
- Personnel disciplinary materials will not be exempt for unrepresented management employees; otherwise retain current exemption.
- Investment-related records of treasurer and OIC are not exempt insofar as they contain information about any benefit received by a state employee or state agency.
- Milk marketing referendum ballots will be subject to disclosure.
- Marine accident reports will be subject to disclosure.
Attorney General John Kroger leads the Oregon Department of Justice. The Department’s mission is to fight crime and fraud, protect the environment, improve child welfare, promote a positive business climate, and defend the rights of all Oregonians.
Tony Green, (503) 378-6002 firstname.lastname@example.org