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State-by-State Legislative Update

From the Summer 2000 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 44.

From the Summer 2000 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 44.

Every year, the Reporters Committee polls state press associations, media lawyers and journalism professors about legislative activity in their state that could affect the rights of journalists to gather information from a variety of sources, both public and private. What follows is a summary of those state initiatives.

During the past year, state legislatures have struggled to balance the public’s right to know with the individual’s right to privacy.

On one hand, many legislatures passed laws that make it easier for journalists, as well as the general public, to obtain vital information about government and other newsworthy topics.

A vast majority of the states proposed legislation to strengthen their open records laws. One of the most successful efforts was in Kansas, where a new law requires the appointment of local freedom of information officers with investigative authority and oversight to enforce the new monetary fine for “knowingly violating” FOIA.

Other proposals that have not yet passed demonstrate that a controversy still surrounds government and public perception about just how open records should be. One bill in New Jersey will, if passed, expand the existing public records law to create a presumption that all government documents are public records unless a specific law or executive order says otherwise. And a proposed Illinois bill, which died in the Senate, would have allowed people denied access to records to appeal directly to the attorney general’s office.

Another trend that helps journalists is legislation aimed at creating more electronic access to public records. This year, more than 15 states proposed legislation that would have required that records be posted electronically, usually on the Internet. The eight bills that passed range from a California law requiring state bodies to post notice of meetings and minutes on their web sites to a Kentucky law requiring the electronic filing of campaign finance reports.

A third trend facilitating open records laws is the creation of Freedom of Information advisory councils or ombudsmen. For example, a new law created the Virginia FOI Advisory Council to advise and train government officials as to what rights citizens have to government information and proceedings. A similar proposed bill in Massachusetts would have created a freedom of information commission to investigate all complaints of public records law violations.

While some of the year’s laws make newsgathering easier, other legislation makes it increasingly difficult for both journalists and the general public to access information.

In response to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that states must enforce the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act, more than ten states passed new laws limiting the disclosure of drivers license information. Many of the new laws require states to give individuals the choice of “opting in” to having information be accessible to the public rather than “opting out” of having information automatically released. Some states, such as Ohio, Missouri and Michigan, have also passed laws prohibiting the state from selling lists of personal information from drivers records. And, as always, new laws create a multitude of small exceptions to open records and meetings acts across the country.

Given the struggle between the need for openness and the growing perception that personal privacy is threatened by widespread computerization, it is likely that this battle for access will continue for years to come.

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ALABAMA

A new law authorizes the state Department of Human Resources to publish newspaper ads with the photos and names of the 10 parents who are most behind in paying child support. (H.B. 308)

A bill that died on the Senate floor would have clarified an existing open meetings exemption allowing an executive or secret session to be held when the “good name and character” of a person are involved. It would have required that the discussion of the name and character be the primary purpose of the meeting. The bill would also have established rules for providing notice of meetings and made a violation punishable by up to $500. The bill also would have exempted discussions of litigation or real estate purchases from the open meeting law. (S.B. 150)

Free speech. A bill that died on the House floor sought to guarantee free speech and free press rights for students. (H.B. 573)

ALASKA

A bill signed into law excludes the public from delinquency hearings of minors, but allows the court, in its discretion, to permit individuals to attend a hearing if their attendance is compatible with the best interests of the minor. The court’s official records are confidential and may be inspected only with the court’s permission and only by persons having a legitimate interest. (H.B. 177)

Records pertaining to recipients of assistance from an Alaska Native family assistance grant and recipients of state public assistance grants are confidential under a new law. (H.B. 98)

A new law makes records concerning examinations of insurers by a rating

commission, applications for the royalty modification, and data collected by tourism-related businesses for the Department of Community and Economic Development confidential. (H.B. 435)

A new law states that the Department of Administration’s report of the financial transactions of the preceding fiscal year and of the financial condition of the state as of the end of that year shall be printed for the information of the legislature and the public. (S.B. 155)

The 2000 legislature passed a bill requiring that the Department of Health and Social Services make inspection and investigation reports on regulated facilities available to the public within 14 days after they are made available to the facility. (S.B. 56)

State personnel records, including employment applications and examination and other assessment materials, are confidential and are not open to public inspection under a new law. (H.B. 317)

A boating safety law states that all records of ownership of boats that are kept by the Department of Administration are public records. (H.B. 108)

In an effort to improve the child protection system by way of broader exposure, the governor transmitted a bill that would have opened court hearings, court records and state agency records in child-in-need-of-aid matters to the public. The bill was never considered by the legislature. (H.B. 321, S.B. 224)

A Senate concurrent resolution suspended a bill that would have made records concerning current and former members of a state retirement system, both living and deceased, confidential. (H.B. 335, S.C.R. 21)

DMV. Public access to information contained in motor vehicle records is now closed under a new law requiring written consent by the person who is the subject of the information before the department of motor vehicles releases personal information. (H.B. 324)

ARIZONA

A new law amending the open meetings act allows for meetings through “technological devices,” clarifies that all legal actions of public bodies must occur during meetings that are open to the public, gives prosecutors better ability to investigate violations of the meetings act, and prohibits officials from knowingly directing any staff member to communicate in violation of the meetings law. The law also allows more legal discussions, including settlement conferences, to be conducted in executive session. (S.B. 1392)

A new law requires insurers to adopt policies to protect the confidentiality of domestic violence victims. (S.B. 1173)

Another act signed into law requires a new Board of Athletic Training to keep confidential all information relating to complaints filed against athletic trainers. Information that pertains to the relationship between a trainer and a client is also confidential. (S.B. 1202)

A bill that failed in the Senate would have required public bodies who have web sites to post meeting notices on them. (H.B. 2003)

A bill that failed in committee would have required that school council meetings be subject to open meetings laws. (H.B. 2122)

Charter schools would be subject to open meeting statutes under another bill that did not pass. (H.B. 2144)

A bill held in committee would have required that meetings to fill a vacancy on a board of supervisors be subject to the state’s open meetings laws. (H.B. 2296)

A bill that failed would have severely restricted private use of information obtained from consumers. (H.B. 2717)

ARKANSAS

The Arkansas Legislature was not in session this year.

CALIFORNIA

A new law opens juvenile court records when the child is deceased. (S.B. 199, Chapter No. 984)

State bodies must provide, via the Internet, notice of their regular meetings and minutes of any meeting for a minimum of 10 days under a new law. (A.B. 1234, Chapter No. 393)

Another law will exempt from disclosure the names, addresses and phone numbers of state employees who provide in-home support services. (A.B. 515, Chapter No. 804)

The governor vetoed a bill that would have exempted from disclosure any personal electronic mail or other private computer records of a state or local agency employee. (S.B. 1016)

Another vetoed bill would have allowed judges to impose penalties for knowing violations of the open records law. (S.B. 48)

A bill that would have required any agency with public records that are in electronic format to make them available in electronic format also was vetoed. (S.B. 1065)

A bill that would have required the Department of Social Services to delete any complaint made against residential care facilities that the department finds unfounded or inconclusive died in committee. (S.B. 261)

A bill to make divorce records confidential died in committee. (S.B. 1139)

Another bill that died in committee would have automatically rescinded orders sealing divorce files ten years after they were entered. (S.B. 1615)

The following legislation was still under consideration by the legislature in late July:

One bill would require a state agency with a web site to post all its reports, surveys and polls on the Internet. (A.B. 1759)

Another bill would create a right of access to electronically held public records and prevent agencies from delaying public access to records. (A.B. 2799)

A bill would establish an open meeting law for student body organizations (A.B. 1855), while another bill would make various provisions of the open meetings law applicable to legislative meetings and proceedings of student body organizations of the California State University. (A.B. 1857)

A bill would create a presumption that juvenile court hearings are open. (S.B. 1391)

A bill would require California’s Environmental Protection Agency to post final orders of enforcement actions on the Internet. (A.B. 2282)

Under another bill, a citizen disputing an agency’s denial of a public records request would be allowed to submit a complaint to the attorney general’s office for a review and written opinion. This review would not be available when the challenged agency has already sought the attorney general’s advice on the request. (S.B. 2027)

A bill entitled the Personal Information and Privacy Act of 1999 would further restrict the collection and disclosure of personal information by governmental, business, or nonprofit organizations and would require the director of the Department of Consumer Affairs to appoint a privacy ombudsman. It would also require a person seeking to collect personal data to specify his purpose, and it limits future use of the data to the stated purpose. (S.B. 129)

Consumers could opt-out from having supermarkets share or sell their personal information under another bill. (S.B. 417)

Two bills would require the Judicial Council to adopt rules to provide for public access to court administration information, including budget allocation and expenditure information. (A.B. 2836, A.B. 2459)

Grand jury records would be sealed and retained for one year under another bill. Any person who served on the grand jury would be granted access to the records if they are needed to defend an action for defamation. (S.B. 1591)

Newsgathering. A bill would restore the right of journalists to arrange interviews with specific inmates and would also permit inmates to send confidential mail to the media. (A.B. 2101)

Reporter’s privilege. Following a number of recent incidents where journalists were compelled to testify in criminal trials, a bill was introduced to clarify reporters’ rights under the shield law. Under the bill, a reporter’s decision to partially testify about a controversy could not be construed as a complete waiver of the journalist’s rights to keep other information confidential. A journalist must be given at least five days’ notice before being compelled to testify, and trial judges would be required to give written explanations when journalists are held in contempt. (A.B. 1860).

Libel. The state’s anti-SLAPP law, which allows for special motions to dismiss by defendants in lawsuits over public controversies who were furthering their rights of petition or free speech, is amended to allow for direct appeals of denials of such motions. Previously, judges could decide that such an appeal should wait until after trial. (A.B. 1675, Chapter No. 960)

A bill that would have made it a misdemeanor punishable by a fine to libel a political candidate died in committee. (A.B. 2073)

Privacy. The period of protection for the unauthorized use of a deceased personality’s likeness is extended from 50 years to 70 years under another law. (S.B. 209, Chapter No. 998)

A failed bill would have provided that anyone who uses an item like a telescope or camera to invade the privacy of a person who otherwise has a reasonable expectation of privacy, whether in a public or private place, is guilty of disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor. (A.B. 1313)

COLORADO

Gov. Bill Owens vetoed a bill that would have required identifying information about concealed weapon permit holders to be kept confidential. (H.B. 1114)

Two new laws open the records of the Colorado Prepaid Tuition Fund. One of the laws adds a list of specific information that can no longer be hidden from investors. (H.B. 1276; S.B. 164)

A new law creates a task force to study privacy issues in information policy and technology that will recommend legislation and administrative policies governing the collection, retention and use of information by public and private entities. (H.B. 1395)

A proposed bill that would have allowed crime victims to ask a judge to seal all or part of a criminal justice record was postponed indefinitely in committee. That bill also would broaden the definition of “victim” to include relatives or legal representatives of people directly affected by a crime as well as any person whose name is contained in the record. The legislation was proposed in the aftermath of the Columbine High School tragedy by the father of a Columbine student. (H.B. 1443)

A bill that would have required public bodies to keep minutes of executive sessions died in a House committee. Currently, it is only necessary to record the topic of discussion of an executive session. (H.B. 1374)

The “Colorado Privacy Protection Act,” which would have prohibited the creation or use of secret information collection systems, was postponed indefinitely in a House committee. The bill also stated that personal information “shall not be collected except for a legitimate purpose that has been clearly established in advance.” (H.B. 1110)

DMV. A new law requires that a notice of the right to request confidentiality be posted wherever applications or renewals for drivers licenses, I.D. cards, motor vehicle titles, and motor vehicle registration are accepted. The law also deleted an existing exception allowing the disclosure of confidential records for “the lawful use by the press and news media in gathering news information.” (S.B. 11)

A proposed bill, which passed the House but died in a Senate committee, would have required anyone inspecting motor vehicle or driver records maintained by the Department of Revenue to sign an affidavit of intended use, which would include a stipulation that the requester will not resell or transfer the information or use it in a manner that is not authorized under law. Additionally, the bill would prohibit the resale or transfer of motor vehicle or driver records obtained from the Department. (H.B. 1380)

CONNECTICUT

A new law creates a Freedom of Information Act exemption for information such as software and codes if disclosure would threaten the security or integrity of an information technology system. (H.B. 5679)

Under another new law, the General Assembly must, at the start of each regular session, adopt rules to provide notice to the public of its regular, special, emergency and interim committee meetings. (H.B. 5637)

A new law amends the Freedom of Information Act to prevent disclosures that would diminish the effect of state safety measures, and allows the Commissioner of Public Works and the Chief Court Administrator to withhold records when there are reasonable grounds to believe disclosure may result in a safety risk to any person or state-owned facility. (H.B. 5683)

A bill signed into law implements the governor’s initiative that economic development entities receiving public funds should be accountable to the public through the Freedom of Information Act. (H.B. 5684)

A student information database is exempted from the Freedom of Information Act under a new law concerning under-performing schools and school readiness. (H.B. 5737)

New laws grant greater confidentiality provisions for records of serious injuries and deaths received by the Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities (H.B. 5796); held by the state Department of Banking (S.B. 9); and of probate court proceedings involving individuals with mental retardation. (S.B. 90)

A bill that did not pass would have provided that any communication relating to an insurer’s compliance with a self-audit shall not be subject to the open records act. (H.B. 5124)

Criminal records obtained in a background check for care-givers in nursing homes would have been exempt from the Freedom of Information Act under another bill. (H.B. 5300).

A bill that failed would have authorized the establishment of municipal freedom of information advisory boards and provided municipalities with the technical assistance necessary to comply with the Freedom of Information Act. (H.B. 5687)

A failed bill would have provided additional grounds for dismissal of frivolous complaints before the Freedom of Information Commission. (H.B. 5891)

Another bill would have allowed otherwise confidential information regarding a youthful offender to be disclosed when the youth escapes from a correctional institution or a warrant is put out for his arrest. (H.B. 5282)

Grievances involving public employees would have been treated with greater confidentiality under another failed bill. (S.B. 487)

DELAWARE

A new law requires the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control to provide prompt notice of all sites that are contaminated by a hazardous substance to elected state officials, local governments and civic associations. (H.B. 200)

Another law makes confidential the requests from doctors, courts and family members asking the Department of Public Safety for evaluations of potentially unsafe drivers. The records are releasable only by court order. (H.B. 473)

All records and information gathered under the Child Placement Review Act must remain confidential under a new law. (H.B. 540)

A bill that did not pass would have required formal assessments of property being purchased or improved by the University of Delaware with state financial assistance to be subject to the state’s Freedom of Information Act. (H.B. 462)

Another failed bill would allow town and city councils to hold closed-door meetings regarding “threatened” litigation instead of the current law’s broader “potential” litigation, but would have also required public bodies to keep verbatim records of their closed-door executive sessions. The bill would have also permitted dissemination of information by electronic means rather than through paper copies under the state’s Freedom of Information Act, and would have fined public officials $100 for knowingly violating the state’s FOI law. (S.B. 333)

A failed bill that passed the Senate would have allowed the Violent Crimes Compensation Board to close any meeting to the public when it considers the claim of a child victim. (H.B. 541)

Another bill would have made information obtained through an AIDS-prevention needle exchange pilot program that would identify participants confidential. (S.B. 292)

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

No significant media-related bills were introduced before the Council of the District of Columbia this year.

FLORIDA

Two new laws allow the Department of Banking and Finance to keep a wide range of investigatory records confidential until an investigation is complete or inactive. Some of the records remain confidential if the investigation does not result in charges. However, one of the laws deletes certain existing restrictions placed on access to hearings, proceedings, documents and reports of the department. (H.B. 439; S.B. 1262)

Under a new law, confidential records obtained by a domestic violence fatality prevention task force retain their confidential status. Additionally, the law provides an open meetings exemption for the part of the meeting where the identity of the victim or the children of the victim is discussed. (H.B. 1037)

A related law, signed by the governor in late June, exempts from open records laws information provided to sheriffs and states attorneys by persons who take minor children when fleeing. (S.B. 318)

A new law creates public records exemptions for individual records, including assessment data, health data, records of teacher observations and identifying data such as a Social Security number, of children enrolled in subsidized child-care programs and school readiness programs. (S.B. 2250)

A new law, signed by the governor in June, exempts from disclosure under open records laws information that identifies parents who leave newborn infants at hospitals or fire stations. (S.B. 2082)

The governor signed a bill that creates a public records exemption for information that identifies the benefactors or designated beneficiaries of college savings program accounts. The new law authorizes the release of the information to community colleges and universities but only on the condition that the information remain confidential. (S.B. 836)

Another new law creates a public records exemption for proprietary confidential business information obtained from a telecommunications or franchised cable company by local government for regulatory purposes. The law applies to specific confidential business information that is not otherwise made public. (H.B. 2417)

The governor signed a bill allowing the confidentiality of specified information relating to seaports if the information is not generally known and could jeopardize seaport security. (S.B. 1256)

A new law creates an attorney-client privilege for government attorneys. The law stipulates, however, that only those discussions not subject to the Sunshine Law may be protected by the privilege, and that the privilege does not create or alter any exemption to the Sunshine Law or Public Records Law. (S.B. 794)

A new law requires the county recorder in each county to provide a current index of all documents recorded in the official records of the county on a publicly available web site. (S.B. 1334)

A proposed bill, which died in committee, would have allowed the information contained in reports made by physicians of adverse incidents occurring in office practice settings to remain confidential until the state Board of Medicine found sufficient ground to take action against a doctor. (S.B. 992)

GEORGIA

A new law allows access to the records of any child who dies if the child was the subject of a report to the Division of Family and Children Services. (H.B. 1422, Act No. 496)

State funding for public schools will be cut under a new law if the schools do not send annual reports to the state Department of Education demonstrating their compliance with rules for equal opportunity to sports for boys and girls. (H.B. 1308, Act No. 750)

Personal information obtained by counties or municipalities in connection with electronic security systems is confidential under a new law. (S.B. 364, Act No. 904)

The governor vetoed a bill that would have required newspapers to maintain records concerning the identity of persons purchasing political advertisements. (H.B. 1361)

Libel. A bill that stalled on the House floor would have amended the state retraction statute by specifying that in order for a retraction or correction to be used as a defense to a libel suit, the retraction or correction must be published on the same page and with a similar caption as the original story. (H.B. 1252)

A bill that died in committee would have made it unlawful to knowingly disseminate a false statement that is designed to influence elections or adoptions of any ballot proposition. The bill would not have authorized prior restraints of speech and would not apply to journalists who disseminate the material without knowledge of error or falsity. (H.B. 281)

HAWAII

A new law allows health-related entities such as hospitals to disclose protected health care information only within the entity. (S.B. 2254)

The Uniform Information Practices Act was amended to clarify that agencies must respond to requests for personal records within 10 days of receipt of the request, not 10 days after the date of the request. (S.B. 2927)

Another new law requires boards and commissions to notify members of the public that they may attend video-conferences. (S.B. 2924)

A bill that failed would have made agencies keep confidential any records that they maintained but had not originated. (S.B. 2761)

A bill that would have mandated that detailed information about criminal sex offenders be made available on the Internet died on the Senate floor. (S.B. 3047)

The Hawaii Information Privacy Act, which would have restricted business dissemination of individual’s data, died in the House. (H.B. 1877)

An employer-union trust fund administered by a board of directors would have been exempt from the notice requirements of the sunshine law, creating a new exception to the open meetings requirements, had another bill passed. (H.B. 1869)

A similar bill that died would have established an Individual Hawaiian Home Lands Trust Claims Compensation Commission and made it exempt from the sunshine law. (S.B. 2110)

The survey results by the Department of Agriculture of Porcine Respiratory and Reproductive Syndrome would have been confidential had the proposed legislation passed. (H.B. 2801)

Legislation requiring the Department of Human Services and the police department to keep confidential the identity of a person making a report of child abuse or neglect did not pass. (H.B. 3018)

A bill that would have authorized the state auditor to refuse disclosure of documents collected and developed in the course of investigations died. (S.B. 3045)

Employee organizations would have been allowed to share or disclose private information from an employee’s records had the bill passed. (S.B. 2859)

The Senate deferred a bill that would have given individuals the right to refuse to have their Social Security number displayed on any card or record that may be seen by a member of the public. (S.B. 2315)

IDAHO

Personnel records, personal information, health records and professional discipline of current or former public officials are exempt from disclosure under a new law. The law also lists numerous other records and information exempt from disclosure. (H.B. 417)

According to another new law county fair boards must meet in compliance with the open meeting law. (H.B. 449)

Greater confidentiality of income tax information of Idaho taxpayers is required under another new law. (H.B. 458)

Guidelines established by a new law determine when records of the Department of Health and Welfare concerning the investigation of a complaint against a licensed nursing facility shall be subject to disclosure. (H.B. 603)

Records of the Idaho Housing and Finance Association are now exempt from disclosure under law. (H.B. 654)

A new law provides for confidentiality of records relating to the gaming compact between the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes and the state for Class III gaming. (H.B. 694)

Trade secrets and proprietary information received by the Idaho Individual High Risk Reinsurance Pool is confidential under a new law. (H.B. 780)

Draft documents of the Commission for Reapportionment are also now exempt from open records statutes according to a new law. (S.B. 1303)

Copies of noncommercial and nongovernmental applications, plans and specifications and temporary county records are now classified under a new law. (S.B. 1381)

Prescription records maintained by the Board of Pharmacy are now exempt from disclosure under a new law. (S.B. 1510)

An exemption for records of the state Commission on Pardons and Parole is expanded to specifically include the names, addresses and written statements of victims testifying before the commission. (S.B. 1552)

Another new law provides certain designated reports concerning the criminal justice system must be exempt from public disclosure. (S.B. 1553)

DMV. A measure passed that restricts the disclosure of photographs and other personal information maintained by the Department of Transportation for drivers licenses and identification cards. (S.B. 1409)

Personal information in an individual’s motor vehicle or driver record may be disclosed with the consent of the person to whom such personal information pertains under another new law. (S.B. 1435)

Privacy. Confidentiality of patient-specific information concerning prescriptions and other information is provided for under a new law. (S.B. 1455)

A “no telephone solicitation contact” list, on which Idaho residents may, for a fee, be placed is established under new law. The law prohibits telephone solicitors from calling people on the list. (H.B. 744)

Broadcasting. A new law requires the state board of education to monitor Idaho Public Television content for material that may be controversial in nature, and ensures that no programs are broadcast that would promote, support or encourage violation of Idaho criminal statutes. (H.B. 768)

ILLINOIS

A new law amends the Open Meetings Act to provide that school boards may hold closed meetings to consider security procedures and the use of personnel and equipment to respond to an actual, threatened or reasonably potential danger to the safety of students, school employees, school staff or school property. (H.B. 3881)

A new law signed by the governor in early July creates a gang monitoring and control unit within the Department of Corrections. The bill specifies that all information collected by the unit will be “highly confidential” and is exempt from disclosure. (H.B. 4124)

A bill to amend the open records act was proposed by Attorney General Jim Ryan after a media investigation last summer found that many local governments were not complying with the state’s open records law. The bill, which passed the House but died in a Senate committee, would have allowed an individual to appeal a denial of a FOIA request to the attorney general, who would be given powers of investigation. Additionally, the bill states that any person denied access to inspect or copy any public record by the head of a public body may file suit, in which the prevailing party would be awarded attorney fees and litigation costs. Under this clause, the party requesting the documents could be forced to pay the government’s attorney costs in the case of a frivolous lawsuit. (H.B. 3469)

A second proposal to amend the open records act also died in a Senate committee. Under this bill, anyone denied access to inspect or copy public records could sue for injunctive or declarative relief, including attorney’s fees. Current law allows a judge to award legal fees only under special circumstances. (H.B. 4341)

A new law, signed by the governor in June, reaffirms that the Health Facilities Planning Board must abide by the open meetings and gift ban acts. (S.B. 807)

A bill that would have required the secretary of state to keep driver’s license and identification card photos confidential died in committee. The bill also would have made the encrypted bar code information on licenses or identification cards confidential. (H.B. 3163)

A proposed bill, which died in a House committee, would have clarified existing case law to make settlement agreements that involve a public body and that are reached in actual or threatened litigation available under the Freedom of Information Act. (H.B. 2976)

A proposed bill would have made transcripts of the General Assembly debates and roll-call votes available to the public in an electronic, searchable database. (H.B. 2957)

Another proposal would have amended the Open Meetings Act by requiring state public bodies that maintain web sites to post all notices, schedules and agendas of meetings on that website. (S.B. 1486)

INDIANA

A new law allows for the closing of records and meetings involving school security measures. A state press association proposal to allow review of a security plan following an event where someone was injured was rejected by sponsor Rep. Claire Leuck (D-Fowler), who said that school officials would “do what’s right” if the situation occurred. (H.B. 1074)

A new law provides that a city, town or school corporation may post notices at a post office, bank or public building in which the body meets only if there is no city or town hall or the school district does not have an administration building. An amendment to this bill clarifies that the annual report for cities and towns must include the total compensation paid out to individuals. (H.B. 1008)

A bill containing recommendations of the state Public Access Counselor would have made Social Security numbers confidential in all public records, prohibited the Public Access Counselor from giving any type of opinion on any dispute being litigated, and established criteria for teleconferencing for public bodies. These provisions were removed by a conference committee before the bill was passed into law. (H.B. 1328)

A proposed bill, which died in committee, would have allowed victims of domestic violence to obtain confidential addresses designated by the office of the attorney general for the service of process and the receipt of mail. (S.B. 80)

Another proposed bill would have made election materials collected from precincts following a vote available for public copying and inspection following the recount period. Current law seals the information for 22 months and then allows it to be destroyed. (S.B. 116)

Legislation was introduced that would have provided that the names of prospective jurors would be open to examination as a public record unless the judge rules them confidential for safety or fair-trial reasons. (H.B. 1400)

A proposed bill, which passed the Senate but died in a House committee, would have required parental notice of surveys done in school that are not directly related to academic instruction and that attempt to affect student’s attitudes or beliefs on issues. The bill would have exempted questioning of individual students during disciplinary procedures or surveys conducted by a student run news medium from the notification requirement. (S.B. 151)

A proposed bill would have extended the definition of trade secrets to include retail revenue information and retail sales information. (H.B. 1325)

Real estate prices became public on January 1, when certain provisions of a 1993 law expired. Previously, the records were collected by county auditors but kept confidential.

DMV. A new law, which brings Indiana into conformance with federal changes in the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act, prohibits the disclosure of personal information, such as Social Security numbers and addresses, from a motor vehicle record. The law allows disclosure of personal information for use by a government official or by an employer to verify information about a commercial license holder. (H.B. 1097)

Libel. A bill was introduced that would have adopted the Uniform Correction or Clarification of Defamation Act drafted by the a national conference supporting uniform state laws. However, concerns over how the bill would affect current state laws kept it from passing. (S.B. 81)

IOWA

A new law allows compensation commissions that assess damages incurred when private property is condemned to close deliberation sessions, although hearings will remain open to the public. (H.B. 2528)

A new law provides for confidentiality of the Internet addresses of computers recorded as having visited state websites. Under Iowa law, such information would have been publicly available because it is in the possession of a government agency. (H.B. 2220)

A proposed law, which passed the House but not the Senate, would have prohibited governmental bodies from disclosing a person’s Social Security number unless required by law to do so. Social Security numbers would have had to be deleted from records before their release. (H.B. 2387)

A new law allows a court to order that the address or location information of a domestic abuse victim be kept confidential. (S.B. 2308)

Another new law gives the governor and legislative leaders access to confidential child abuse information held by the Department of Human Services so they can monitor state actions. (H.B. 2377)

A bill, signed by the governor on April 25, creates a state information technology department to implement access to public records. (H.B. 2395)

A bill was introduced that would have legalized marijuana for therapeutic purposes, but would require the names and identifying characteristics of those patients prescribed marijuana be confidential. (S.B. 2076)

A proposed bill would have amended a provision that prohibits the state department of transportation from selling records that are in the form of a person’s photograph, digital image or digital reproduction of a person’s photograph. Under this bill, the department could have collected reasonable fees for the photocopying of these records. (S.B. 2206)

Two proposed study bills would have prohibited access to birth records held by the Iowa Department of Health. Supporters of the study bills claimed that they would help to prevent “identity theft.” (H.S.B. 618; S.S.B. 3102)

KANSAS

A new law strengthens the state’s Open Records Act by providing for local freedom of information officers with investigative authority and oversight. The law provides for a $500 penalty for “knowingly violating” open records laws, and states that all exceptions to open records disclosure will expire on July 1, 2005, unless the Legislature votes to retain them. (H.B. 2864)

An alternate proposal would have created a freedom of information officer in the secretary of state’s office to resolve records disputes. (H.B. 2729)

A new law requires that lobbyists must publicly report any gifts, entertainment or hospitality provided to government employees, as well as the amount of money spent on the lobbying and lobbyists’ expenses. (H.B. 2627)

A proposed bill would have kept confidential the criminal record checks on potential gun buyers or transferees who are not found to be prohibited from owning firearms. (H.B. 2949)

Privacy. A new law modifies the eavesdropping law and establishes a misdemeanor penalty for violations. The law prohibits a person from entering a private place to listen to private conversations or to observe any other person. Additionally, it prohibits the use without consent of a recording device on a phone, any device to hear otherwise inaudible sounds originating inside a private place, or a camera to film any person under or through the clothing, in a state of undress, or a state of nudity where there is a reasonable expectation to privacy. (S.B. 470)

KENTUCKY

A bill vetoed by the governor would have prohibited any public agency from selling or distributing any information collected by the state, including private wage data, to any bank, creditor or any other person, unless release of the information is expressly authorized by state or federal statute. (H.B. 130)

A new law relating to insurance fraud provides that investigative information held by the insurance commissioner is confidential and privileged. (H.B. 300)

A statute relating to utilities is amended under a new law which exempts any information given by a utility to the Public Service Commission from public inspection if the information could be exempt under the Kentucky Open Records laws. (H.B. 346)

Records received in confidence from insurance supervisory officials of other states or countries are not open to the public under a new law. (H.B. 354)

A prisoner may challenge denial of access to a public record by sending the appropriate documents to the attorney general within 20 days of the denial according to a new law. (H.B. 475)

A new law requires accountability for funds or assets recovered through judgment or settlement by elected statewide public officials and provides that the board created to administer the tobacco settlement funds is a quasi-governmental agency subject to open records and open meetings laws. (H.B. 629)

All post-secondary educational institutions are required to maintain a daily log recording all crimes occurring on campus and to make the log available for public inspection under a new law. (H.B. 322)

Access to an individual’s tax returns or reports is now restricted under a new law, and the release of information received other agencies or government bodies from the IRS is now prohibited. (H.B. 822)

Electronic filing of campaign finance reports is mandatory under a new law, as is greater public disclosure of those records. (H.B. 939)

The State Textbook Commission is required to hold public hearings and permits public inspection of textbooks and programs under consideration under new law. (S.B. 91)

A new law provides notice to the public when an incarcerated person is released. (S.B. 116)

Social Security numbers are required to be entered on marriage licenses and not be available to the public except for child support enforcement, according to new legislation. (S.B. 198)

The governor signed a bill that creates the Governor’s Office of Technology and the Information Technology Advisory Council. The bill makes the office responsible for maintaining privacy and confidentiality in agency records. The bill does not cover retirement system records. (S.B. 315)

LOUISIANA

A new law exempts Louisiana Inc. — a privately run, publicly funded economic development corporation — from the open meetings and open records law on matters related to preliminary agreements. Until the corporation and any given business reach a final agreement on a financial matter, any preliminary agreement can be kept secret. (S.B. 88A)

MAINE

A new law makes a committee that provides services for “children in need of supervision” generally subject to the state’s freedom of information laws. (L.D. 1623, P.L. 778, H.B. 1138)

Another new law provides that a juvenile’s school can disseminate information regarding the juvenile to the court and criminal justice agency under certain conditions, but the information remains confidential and may not be further disseminated. (L.D. 1933, P.L. 595, S.B. 687)

A bill signed into law provides that any report commissioned in whole or in part by the state must be reduced to writing, which is then subject to the freedom of access law. (L.D. 2268, P.L. 623)

Another new law provides increased confidentiality for mental health records. (L.D. 2658, Resolve No. 117, H.B. 1910)

A law providing legal access to marijuana for medical use requires that a list of eligible patients and designated care-givers be kept confidential. (L.D. 2580, Resolve No. 137, SB 1012)

A bill that did not pass would have allowed the attorney general or a deputy or district attorney to demand all the records in the possession of a public utility, Internet service provider, or mobile telecommunications provider of a person if officials have reason to believe that the services are being used for an unlawful purpose. Electronic mail was excluded from coverage. (L.D. 2436, P.L. 686, H.B. 1730)

MARYLAND

A new law exempts the Injured Workers Insurance Fund from open meetings laws. The group is, however, subject to open records laws. (S.B. 881)

A bill would have expanded the meaning of “public body” in the Open Meetings Act to include a corporation that has at least half of its members appointed by a public officer or employee, but it died in committee. (S.B. 608)

A bill that would have allowed the expungement of the criminal record of a person who was convicted of a nonviolent felony died in committee. (S.B. 645)

A similar bill to close certain information in arrest records provided an exemption for journalistic use but the bill was withdrawn. (H.B. 931)

A bill that would have subjected the Baltimore Development Corporation to open meetings and public records laws was withdrawn. (S.B. 241)

A bill that stalled on the House floor would have required a county education board that meets in executive session to provide timely public notice, to reconvene in public session after the executive session and to repeat the votes taken on certain matters during the executive session in public. (H.B. 717)

A bill that would have required the Department of Health to advertise the revocation or suspension of certain licenses of food service facilities was withdrawn. (H.B. 83)

A bill that would have removed the requirement that public notice be given for Baltimore license renewal application hearings was withdrawn. (S.B. 129)

Distribution. A bill that would have prohibited a person from selling goods to occupants of vehicles within 50 yards of a traffic control signal stalled on the House floor. (H.B. 728)

MASSACHUSETTS

The legislature, which is in session until January 2001, is considering a number of information laws.

A proposed bill would establish a freedom of information commission to investigate all complaints of public records law violations. The commission would be the primary civil enforcement agency for records law violations. (H.B. 1098)

A rider to the House’s budget proposal for FY 2001 would limit the state’s Public Records Law by exempting any documents from public access that fall under “attorney work product and attorney-client privileged material.” The bill comes after the state Supreme Judicial Court granted access to internal documents of the attorney general’s staff to General Electric, against whom the office was preparing an environmental claim. (H.B. 5100)

Another bill that creates a performance evaluation system for the judiciary and would provide attorneys, parties and jurors with questionnaires about judges requires that all the information compiled be kept confidential. (H.B. 2544)

Tax returns and credit reports submitted in the licensing application process to the Division of Banks and reports of the division would be exempt from disclosure under another bill. (H.B. 4594)

A bill to establish a center to make recommendations for patient safety and medical error reduction provides that all data collected will be exempt from disclosure. (S.B. 2195)

Another bill provides that addresses of victims of domestic abuse, rape, sexual assault or stalking would be kept confidential. (S.B. 2173)

Privacy. A bill that passed the Senate makes it a crime to intentionally photograph or videotape another person while that person is nude or partially nude, when the person reasonably expects that he will not be recorded and has not consented. (S.B. 1944)

MICHIGAN

A new law allows courts to order the record of a name change proceeding to be confidential for good cause, such as a risk of physical danger to the victim of a stalking or assault. (H.B. 5044)

Two new laws require physicians to report specific information about abortion procedures and complications, but stipulate that the reports cannot contain the name or any other information that would make it possible to identify a woman who has obtained or seeks to obtain an abortion. Additionally, the department is prohibited from disclosing any reports that would in any way identify the person who is the subject of the report. (H.B. 4600; H.B. 4601)

A bill that remains in committee would make it illegal to sell, exchange, transfer or trade almost all information about an individual that was disclosed during the sale of a good or service or the providing of credit, without the person’s written consent. (S.B. 1065)

A new law outlining the information to be included on state identification cards specifies that any information regarding willingness to be placed on the organ donor registry is exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. (S.B. 570)

A new law prohibits the release of student education records and teacher addresses and phone numbers under certain circumstances. (S.B. 588)

A proposed bill states that a person can grant the right of access to his or her health care records to any other person. According to the Michigan Press Association, this bill could be interpreted as restricting a hospital’s ability to release any information about accident victims or other newsworthy patients without the person’s consent. (H.B. 5478)

Proposed amendments to the crime victim’s rights law would exempt identifying information such as name, address and telephone number from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. Additionally, any picture, photographs, drawings or other visual representation that shows the victim’s intimate parts or any sexual contact would also be confidential. (S.B. 1180)

A proposed bill would prohibit certain civil actions against the state of Michigan by the attorney general or any person employed by the attorney general. The attorney general’s office currently can sue to obtain rulings on questions pertaining to FOIA and the Open Meetings Act. (H.B. 4906)

Proposed legislation would require nonprofit hospitals to comply with the Open Meetings Act and the Freedom of Information Act. (H.B. 5245; H.B. 5248)

A bill was introduced that would create a system to automatically notify a victim of the release or transfer of an offender by the Department of Corrections. The information would also be available to the general public through a toll-free telephone number or web site. (H.B. 5338)

A proposed bill, which passed the Senate but is still in a House committee, would make worker’s disability compensation insurance policy information exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. (S.B. 1173)

DMV. Three new laws prohibit the secretary of state from selling lists of driver and motor vehicle records, motor vehicle registrations, and personal information from identification cards for surveys, marketing or solicitations. (H.B.5227; H.B. 5230; H.B. 5270)

Libel. A bill was introduced that would broaden the definition of defamation to include statements “tending to harm reputation.” The bill stipulates that a person could sue for defamation only after making a timely and adequate request for correction or clarification. Additionally, the person suing for defamation would have to state that the alleged defamatory meaning of the publication, broadcast or electronic transmission was false. (S.B. 887)

MINNESOTA

The meetings and records of nonprofit corporations formed by public bodies are open to the public under new law. (H.F. 4127, S.F. 2521)

A bill that would have limited what public record information could be used for, and required the identification of the requester of such information, did not pass. (H.F. 3986)

Bills that would have abolished annual “truth-in-taxation” hearings failed. (H.F. 3843, S.F. 3536)

The behavioral data collected on students adjudicated delinquent for certain violations of criminal law will now be confidential. (H.F. 2833, S.F. 2891)

All communications and information held by health-related boards is confidential, and disciplinary hearings are closed to the public under another new law. (H.F. 3222, S.F. 3117)

The governor signed a bill that states certified copies of birth and death certificates may only be issued to individuals with “tangible interest,” which excludes journalists and non-family members. (H.F. 3236, S.F. 3236)

A data practices bill requires that government agencies must provide public data in electronic or computer format if the agency uses that format for maintaining the data. The bills would make the dates of birth of individuals on parole or probation public, and restricts agencies from seeking identification or monitoring citizens who request access to public government data. (H.F. 3501, S.F. 2811)

A bill that would have imposed limits on copy fees that may be charged by government agencies failed. (H.F 2481, S.F. 2237)

DMV. Failure of a bill keeps access to Department of Motor Vehicle records open. (S.F. 2992) However, an administrative order from the Commissioner of Public Safety directs that data about licensed drivers and motor vehicle owners collected by the state will, as of August 1, no longer be publicly accessible. The action in effect nullifies the legislature’s previous decision to maintain public access to DMV data.

MISSISSIPPI

A new law requires that records of 911 calls would have to be maintained by operators and disclosed to requesters, but tape recordings would not have to be provided. (H.B. 932)

A new law closes the deliberations of the Seed Arbitration Council. (H.B. 292)

The governor vetoed a bill that would have kept private any information about state audit investigations into public corruption in Mississippi. (H.B. 725)

A bill that would have opened access to information on arrests and incident reports died in committee. (S.B. 3071)

A bill that would have made confidential the name of the victim in medical reports of sex crimes died in committee. (S.B. 2005)

Another failed bill would have required all newspapers to publish the announcements of all candidates for public office. (H.B. 300)

DMV. A bill that would have exempted driver’s license records from the Public Records Act also died in committee. (H.B. 354)

MISSOURI

A proposed bill would have made several changes to the Open Meetings and Open Records laws. The bill, which began as a measure to strengthen the Sunshine Laws with increased fines, passed the Senate relatively early in the session. In the House, the bill was combined with another bill that would have allowed public hospitals to close certain records or meetings, including those dealing with contracts with health carriers and compensation paid to physicians. The amended version of the bill failed to pass the Senate prior to adjournment (S.B. 858)

A new law allows the Division of Family Services to make child abuse investigation records available to the press when the press is inquiring about a specific child by name. (S.B. 757)

A new law closes to the public the salaries of CEOs and top officers of mutual insurance companies. (H.B. 896)

A bill signed by the governor on July 14 requires persons working or volunteering at a domestic violence shelter to maintain the confidentiality of any information that would identify individuals served by the shelter. (H.B. 1677)

A proposed bill would have allowed birth parents to request that the birth records of their child be kept confidential. Additionally, every health care facility that provides birthing services would have to inform birth parents of their rights to request the nondisclosure of birth information and records. Some limited exceptions to confidentiality would have been granted. (H.B. 1919)

DMV. A new law, signed by the governor on July 12, creates an “opt-in” policy for release of individual motor vehicle records, where records are released only if the individual expressly consents. The bill would maintain the news media exemption, passed in 1997, allowing press access to the records. (H.B. 1797)

A proposed bill, which passed the Senate but died in a House committee, would have prohibited the bulk disclosure of motor vehicles and driver’s license records by the Department of Revenue. (S.B. 565)

Newsgathering. A bill was introduced that would have made it a misdemeanor to violate the lawful order of a law enforcement officer at the scene of an accident or emergency. The bill listed five reasons for “lawful orders,” including “to protect the privacy or well-being of victims.” (H.B. 1511)

MONTANA

The Montana Legislature was not in session this year.

NEBRASKA

A new law strengthens Nebraska’s Open Records Act by requiring that copies on paper, microfiche or disk can be obtained at no more than the actual cost of reproduction. The law also gives public bodies four days to respond to a filed written request. (L.B. 628)

A new law, which authorizes telephone conference calls for certain public meetings, requires that reasonable arrangements be made to accommodate the public’s right to attend, hear and speak at the meeting. (L.B.461)

Another new law generally excludes job application materials, such as reference letters and transcripts, from public record requirements, unless a candidate for a public job is offered and accepts an interview by a public body or its agents. (L.B. 137)

A law making more public utilities records open to the public was signed by the governor in May. It requires natural gas prices to be calculated through a rate-making procedure that is open to public investigation, comment or protest. (L.B. 78)

A proposed bill would have allowed an individual to request that information relating to his or her residence address and telephone number remain confidential on all public records. This petition would have to allege that a life-threatening circumstance exists that requires such information to remain confidential. (L.B. 108)

Employees or volunteers of sexual assault or domestic violence organizations, as well as the victims themselves, could not be compelled to provide testimony or produce records concerning a confidential communication during any civil or criminal procedure under another proposed bill. (L.B. 1275)

A proposed bill relating to open meetings would have allowed public bodies to hold some meetings outside of the state. One stipulation would have required reasonable arrangements be made to accommodate the public’s right to attend, hear and speak at the meeting. (L.B. 933)

DMV. A new law relating to motor vehicles states that Social Security numbers cannot be printed on licenses and will not be considered public records. Any person requesting driver record information must give the Department of Motor Vehicles the name of the person whose record is being requested and additional identifying information if the name alone is insufficient to identify the record. The bill’s original language would have required driver’s license applications to provide a clear and conspicuous notice that the personal information on the application is subject to disclosure unless the individual chooses to file a form prohibiting disclosure, but this requirement was deleted in the final version of the bill. The law retains a provision under prior law that permits disclosure of motor vehicle records to the news media when the purpose fits within the general criteria of helping prevent crime or enhance safety. The law would also permit re-disclosure by publication of such information, if the story fits the criteria. (L.B. 1317)

Free speech. A proposed bill that did not pass before the legislature adjourned would have prohibited school administrators from suppressing or prohibiting material because it involves any individual’s opinion or involves factual material regarding a controversial subject matter. The bill encouraged students in Nebraska to “exercise their freedoms of speech and press, including the right of vigorous and even controversial expression in student publications.” (L.B. 182)

NEVADA

The Nevada Legislature was not in session this year.

NEW HAMPSHIRE

A new law establishes a committee to study the future impact of communication and information technology on the Right-To-Know Law. (H.B. 1435)

A new law makes all information compiled in performance evaluation of judges, including responses to questionnaires, confidential. (H.B. 568)

Another new law specifies that annual reports for hospitals and physician hospital organizations are public records, although the attorney general may deem particular information in a report confidential. (H.B. 1335)

One bill that is still active would establish through the attorney general’s office an address confidentiality program for victims of domestic violence, stalking or sexual assault. (S.B. 413)

A bill that failed to pass the House would have made materials or reports generated during a Department of Corrections critical incident review confidential and not subject to discovery in judicial or administrative proceedings. (H.B. 1249)

The proceedings of an unemancipated minor’s petition to the court for an abortion due to her lack of parental consent for the abortion, as well as the minor’s appeal of those proceedings, would have been made confidential by another failed bill. (H.B. 1511)

NEW JERSEY

The following legislation is currently under consideration:

A bill would expand the existing Public Records La