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State-by-State Legislative Update

From the Summer 2001 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 53.

From the Summer 2001 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 53.

Each year, the Reporters Committee monitors state legislation that affects journalists’ ability to gather and report news. Through interviews with officials at state press associations, media lawyers and legislators, a list is compiled of new laws — and bills that were considered — that could affect the rights of journalists to gather information from a variety of sources.

State legislatures wrestled with many issues this year, including access to autopsy records, medical privacy, the Internet, openness in lawsuit settlement agreements, and access to concealed weapons permits.

Several states attempted major overhauls of their public records laws. Some laws complicated journalists’ work in pursuing information and records, while other reforms protected or granted new access to records.

Florida led the way in restricting access to autopsy records after the controversy surrounding the death of NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt at Daytona. The legislature closed access to autopsy photographs, videos and audio tapes. Several states followed Florida as politicians across the country tapped into a wave of outrage by racing fans over the possibility that Earnhardt autopsy photographs might have been released in their states. A similar effort failed in Alabama, while bills were pending in Illinois and South Carolina. Louisiana passed a law that forbids the copying of autopsy records but allows inspection. In Maine, medical examiner reports are no longer confidential under a new law, but photographs and pathology slides are now secret.

A major open records reform initiative failed in New Jersey after the assembly speaker stalled the bill in committee. Both chambers had passed a version of the bill. Colorado lawmakers approved changes to the state open meetings law, adding requirements for executive sessions and providing for public access to minutes of meetings held in executive session. And the District of Columbia voted to expand its Freedom of Information law.

Other states enacted reforms that bolster open records and open meetings laws. Louisiana approved a law requiring that all exemptions to the public records law be listed in the statute. And Mississippi passed legislation requiring most conference committee meetings in the legislature to be posted in advance and open to the public.

Another trend was the move toward privatization of medical and health records. Maine approved a law that limits the type of information that can be released about epidemiological investigations. Hawaii defeated a bill that would have required the Office of Information Practices to enforce violations of the existing medical privacy law. And Oklahoma is considering a bill called the “Medical Information Privacy Act” that would privatize an array of medical records that could identify individuals.

The Internet was another popular topic, as states moved to restrict the types of information some Web sites are permitted to collect. Arizona and Montana joined several states in limiting the information that state Web sites can collect from visitors.

Arizona also attempted to pass a bill requiring lawsuit settlement agreements involving defective products or hazardous environmental materials to be open, but the bill narrowly failed. Comparable legislation was under consideration in California and Oregon, while Nevada passed a similar law.

Several states considered legislation dealing with concealed weapons permits. Colorado passed a bill exempting some of the information contained on the permits from the open records law. But lawmakers defeated another proposal that would have added stronger privacy protections for permit holders. Oregon is considering similar legislation.

In education, several states passed laws exempting questions from standardized graduation tests from open records laws.

And legislation regarding e-mail remained a trend, with some states moving to add e-mail to the list of covered records, and others attempting to exempt e-mail from the public records laws.

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This state legislative update was compiled by the Reporters Committee’s summer interns: Legal interns Chris Moeser and Ann Premer and journalism intern Erin Uy.

Alabama

An autopsy records bill would have provided an exemption from the public record law for photographs and video recordings of an autopsy but not any other part of the autopsy report. The House bill emerged from committee and was debated on the floor in May. Some representatives strongly opposed the bill, arguing the bill violated the First Amendment and emphasizing the need for public access to records. The House adjourned while the bill was being considered and the bill was not later addressed. (H.B. 722; S.B. 536)

Bills in the House and Senate would have allowed for a public body to close a meeting when it discussed the sale or purchase of real estate, creating an exemption to the open meetings law. (H.B. 251; S.B. 287)

The House had not yet considered a bill on the floor in July that acknowledged student free expression rights in school. It received a favorable report from the House Education Committee. (H.B. 601)

Alaska

An attempt to apply open meetings guidelines to the state legislature, a proposal by the Select Committee on Legislative Ethics, failed to be approved by the state’s 22nd Legislature, just as it had failed in the 19th and 21st Legislatures. The resolution called for meetings of a legislative body to be open — including the Senate, the House of Representatives, and committees, as well as other factions of the Legislature. The concurrent resolution included provisions about executive sessions, closed meetings, notice of meetings and recordings of meetings. The measure would have provided guidelines for the legislature to follow to ensure compliance with open meetings. (H.C.R. 16; S.C.R. 9)

A resolution in the House to amend the state’s constitution did not emerge from committee. The resolution, which would have been placed on the ballot for voters to decide in a general election, would have increased the openness of meetings. The goal of the resolution was to make openness in government the rule and secrecy the exception by ensuring that the “public is not excluded from substantive deliberative and decision-making stages of the budgetary and lawmaking process.” (H.J.R. 21)

Arizona

Reporters will continue to have access to voter registration records, but a new law shuts off access by most other people to voter information. State election law already included a provision that restricted use of voter registration information to election purposes, but the information was generally available to anyone who requested it at a county election office. The new law retains the exception for anyone who needs the information for election purposes and adds an exemption for news reporters. (H.B. 2257)

A bill that would have exempted a state graduation test given to high school students from the public records law was defeated. The proposal would have made secret the questions on the test, which eventually all high school students must pass before graduating. (S.B. 1096)

Prosecutors can file affidavits to withhold the disclosure of personal information about themselves contained in public records under a new state law. Previously, only judges could request blocking access to public records. The law is aimed at improving safety for prosecutors. (H.B. 2083)

The legislature narrowly defeated a bill that would have limited the ability of litigants to make secret settlement agreements that resolve lawsuits concerning defective products and environmental hazards. The bill fell one vote short in the state Senate after extensive lobbying from business interests. (S.B. 1530)

A new law requires state agencies to develop and post information on their Web sites about what private information they are collecting from Web browsers. (H.B. 2043)

Lawmakers defeated a bill that would have subjected businesses to increased liability for failing to properly dispose of customer records. The proposal contained an exception that limited liability for reporters who received customer records that were improperly disposed of. (H.B. 2351)

The legislature approved a bill that exempts from the public records law state university records of intellectual property, donated historical materials, and names and information concerning donors or potential donors to a university. (S.B. 1527)

A new law restricts when telephone solicitors can make phone calls, eliminating late-night and early morning calls. The proposal initially would have banned all telephone solicitations in the state. (S.B. 1254)

Two bills failed that would have expanded protections for government whistleblowers. (H.B. 2561, H.B. 2617)

Arkansas

A new law requires the state to make quarterly reports of tax incentives given to new industries. (S.B. 65)

A bill failed that would have limited the exemption from the Freedom of Information Act for contracts between the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and businesses to one year. (S.B. 378)

Lawmakers defeated a bill that would have extended an exemption to the Freedom of Information Act to the working papers of legislative staffers. (S.B. 588)

A bill failed that would have allowed state agencies to meet in secret to buy, sell, or lease property. (S.B. 589)

Lawmakers approved a bill that exempts state employee addresses from the Freedom of Information Act. (S.B. 689)

The legislature passed a bill that exempts exam answers and questions used by boards and commissions for licensure from the Freedom of Information Act. (S.B. 866)

A bill failed that would have exempted student disciplinary records from the state public records law. (S.B. 941)

Lawmakers defeated a bill that would have required state police to publish data about routine traffic stops. (H.B. 1294)

A new law allows students to testify in private hearings under the Teacher Fair Dismissal Act. (H.B. 1774)

California

A pending bill would allow public access to usually exempt public records under specified circumstances. Public officials and courts could, under this legislation, provide access to records if “withholding the record would seriously harm the public interest, the public safety, or the constitutional rights of any person.” The bill would not affect any public record where disclosure is prohibited by law. (A.B. 914)

Legislation requiring state and local agencies to assist members of the public seeking public records was approved by the Assembly and sent to the Senate where action was suspended. It would create guidelines by which the agencies would be required to identify records that would be responsive to the request, describe the physical or electronic environment in which the records exist and provide suggestions to the requester to eliminate potential barriers to access. (A.B. 1014)

An Assembly bill, which is in a Senate committee, would require that active independent issue advocacy and political campaigns disclose and document certain information including information designed to influence the outcome of elections. (A.B. 2)

An Assembly bill in committee would provide that certain information may not be kept confidential pursuant to an agreement by the parties if the information could protect the public from defective product or environmental hazard. (A.B. 36; S.B. 11)

An Assembly bill, which was before a Senate committee in July, would for purposes of the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act, define “meeting” as it is defined in the Ralph M. Brown Act and also align the open meeting provisions of the Bagley-Keene Act with the Brown Act. The Brown Act generally mandates that meetings of state boards and commissions be open and public. (A.B. 192)

An Assembly bill that would have exempted nonprofit corporations created to operate business improvement districts from the Brown Act was amended to guarantee their compliance with both the Brown Act and the California Public Records Act. The enrolled bill was sent to the governor. (A.B. 1021)

A bill, which was moved to an inactive file, would expressly proscribe closed meetings of local government bodies to discuss collateral topics surrounding real property transfers, including real property transactions between two or more local agencies. (A.B. 1050)

Another Assembly bill before the Senate would require local law enforcement agencies to disclose the identity and residence of sex offenders who reside 1,000 feet from school grounds, to school officials and to the parents of children attending the school. (A.B. 349)

An Assembly bill that did not emerge from committee would have enacted the Public Agency Attorney Accountability Act. Declaring that an attorney who is employed by a government agency has a duty to protect the public, this bill would authorize the attorney to report information the attorney believes is necessary to prevent or rectify improper governmental activity. (A.B. 363)

A bill that is in a Senate committee would require the entire text of a proposed bond issue be made available for public inspection. (A.B. 528)

An Assembly bill would allow a party to obtain a court order allowing the transfer of a document that is evidence of a threat to the public to the appropriate state or federal regulatory agency, when the document would otherwise be prohibited from public disclosure. (A.B. 881)

A Senate bill that would proscribe any vocational, professional or post-secondary educational institution from disclosing to anyone outside of the institution a current student’s name, address, telephone number without disclosing to the student the purpose and use of the information is being reconsidered in the House. The bill requires that the institution obtain written permission from the student before releasing any information. (S.B. 43)

A Senate bill would require that a court, before considering or issuing a protective order, conduct a criminal background check and require that the learned information used by the court be read into the public record and reflected in the minute order. (S.B. 66)

A bill that is in committee would restrict access to birth certificates by requiring that the requestor has a valid identification and obtained a signed authorization from the subject of the birth record. (S.B. 247)

A Senate bill in an Assembly committee would require the Department of Justice to include in its annual report to the governor statistical data relating to actions taken with respect to minors whose cases were either filed in or petitioned for a transfer to an adult criminal court. (S.B. 314)

A Senate bill that would have required the automatic sealing of court records concerning the identity of jurors was withdrawn by the author. (S.B. 552)

A Senate bill that would have sealed court records in divorce proceedings unless a party or the court allowed access to the public was withheld in the Senate by its author. The bill also would require that a court, before issuing a court order to allow access to records, determine that the access would not be detrimental to the well-being of any minor child of a party to the proceeding. Additionally, the bill would proscribe a court from issuing an order allowing public access to documents including reports or recommendations from a family court services counselor, psychological or custodial evaluations prepared for any litigation, income and expense declarations, copies of tax records, schedules of assets and debts and property declarations. (S.B. 566)

An Assembly bill, which was being reconsidered in committee, would enact the Financial Privacy Act, which would allow a consumer to proscribe a financial institution from sharing nonpublic consumer personal information with an affiliate or a non-affiliated third party by receipt of a written request. (A.B. 21)

The Committee on Privacy, created last term by the Senate, held its first hearing on the study of confidentiality of medical arbitration agreements. The committee monitored the Department of Managed Health Care as the agency considered a rule proposed by consumer groups that would make public all documents, discovery, decisions and settlements arising from arbitrations between an HMO and a patient. No decisions were made by the committee.

A bill pending in the Senate would allow California residents the opportunity to be placed on a “do not call” list, which would proscribe businesses from soliciting any person on the list. Currently, newspapers are among businesses that are exempt from the telemarketing laws of the state but this bill would eliminate the exemptions. (S.B. 17)

Colorado

Lawmakers defeated a bill that would have restricted access to workers compensation records. (S.B. 01-1)

A proposal failed that would have made willful destruction of government records a crime. The bill added computer software and computerized data to the definition of government records. (S.B. 01-17)

The legislature approved a bill that establishes an electronic filing system for lobbyist disclosure reports. The new law keeps secret complaints against lobbyists until an official investigation is launched. (S.B. 01-21)

A new law requires school districts to post copies of all collective bargaining agreements with the largest public library in the district and on its Web site. (S.B. 01-76)

A new concealed weapons law contains provisions requiring that information identifying permit holders not be available to the public through the Open Records Act. The law is silent as to whether sheriffs must keep the permit itself secret. (S.B. 01-83) Lawmakers defeated another proposal that would have enacted stronger privacy protections for concealed weapons permits. (H.B. 01-1190)

Lawmakers passed a bill to keep secret the names of taxpayers who claim a property tax deferral under a tax abatement program for the elderly. (S.B. 01-115, H.B. 01-1224)

The legislature defeated a proposal that would have made secret information about people receiving medical credentials. (S.B. 01-173)

A new law requires people seeking to inspect motor vehicle or driving records to sign an affidavit explaining why they need the record before requesting it. (H.B. 01-1025)

Lawmakers rejected a bill that would have granted immunity and legal protections for people who participate in public discussion of issues. (H.B. 01-1150)

A new law exempts the Colorado Institute of Technology from open meetings and open records laws. (H.B. 01-1275)

Lawmakers enhanced the open meetings law, adding provisions requiring that executive sessions be recorded in the same manner that the body records open meetings. The bill requires the minutes to include a reference to the specific provision that authorizes the executive session. It also allows for public inspection of the minutes of the executive session if a judge finds the session violated state law. The bill provides for public access to information discussed in certain meetings of public bodies and provides remedies and penalties for violations of the open meetings and open records laws. (H.B. 01-1359)

The legislature adopted a bill clarifying criteria for listing individuals in the register of sex offenders and requiring that the information and pictures be posted on the Internet. (H.B. 01-1155)

A new law allows the Department of Revenue to conduct hearings by telephone or computer in situations in which drivers face the loss of the licenses. The bill does not address public access to the hearings. (H.B. 01-1210)

Connecticut

The governor signed the Act Concerning Privatized Public Records, which has significant Freedom of Information implications. It makes private companies hired to operate a government program accountable to the public, and mandates that all private companies with government contracts in excess of $2.5 million provide records of the program to the public. (H.B. 6636)

A bill in the House that would have mandated that two members of a five-member FOI Commission have at least seven years of experience in either state or municipal government and have seven years of experience in the police or public safety field did not emerge from committee. (H.B. 5601)

A House bill, which did not emerge from committee, would have allowed the public, namely the victim of the accused, to obtain a copy of a police arrest report. (H.B. 6903)

A House bill that would have exempted membership lists of all senior centers, either private or public, from disclosure failed to emerge from committee. (H.B. 6904)

A bill in the House that would have called for certification and background checks for home health aides, certain care providers, emergency medical technicians and nursing home employment did not advance out of committee. Additionally, the bill would have withheld background check records from public access. (H.B. 6725)

A Senate bill, which did not emerge from committee, would have made confidential all information contained on property tax relief application forms filed with assessors by veterans, elderly, totally disabled and blind persons and exempted such records from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. (S.B. 1217)

A bill in the Senate would have required state agencies to follow guidelines in maintaining and disseminating personal information and to develop an Internet privacy policy. An amended version of the bill was approved by the Senate, but it did not make it to the House floor. (S.B. 1239)

Delaware

A bill in the Senate would establish a statewide “do not call” list that would have to be acquired from the state and followed by all telemarketers. Telemarketers would be prohibited from calling Delaware residents on the do not call list who are registered with the attorney general’s office. The bill is in the House Telecommunications Internet and Technology Committee. (S.B. 41)

District of Columbia

The City Council voted to expand the city’s Freedom of Information law, extending openness requirements to electronic records and city contractors. The new law also includes penalties for violators, including a $100 fine. It also includes a reporting provision that requires the mayor to publish a report detailing the number of requests made and the numbers and types of responses to requesters. The City Council is subject to the law, which was approved late last year.

Florida

Following the death of racing legend Dale Earnhardt and his widow’s fight to keep his autopsy photographs out of the public domain, the state passed a bill that closes autopsy photographs, videos or audio recordings from the public. The retroactive statute bars anyone other than public officials and relatives of the deceased from seeing, copying or distributing autopsy photographs. The record may be opened to the public if “good cause” is determined by a judge. The penalty carries the harshest penalty in the state for a records violation. Those who violate the statute may be charged with a felony that could carry a penalty of as many as five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Two newspapers in Florida filed a lawsuit the day after the law was passed asking the court to declare the law unconstitutional and to allow the public the right to access autopsy photographs. On June 13, the Circuit Court in Volusia County validated the new law, determining that pursuant to Florida law the bill passed after Earnhardt’s death was constitutional and could apply retroactively to autopsy photographs of Earnhardt. The Orlando Sentinel and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel continue to challenge the validity of the law with a suit in Broward County involving requests denied under the new law for about 70 autopsy records. (H.B. 1083)

A new law exempts from the open records act certain individual agricultural records, not otherwise subject to disclosure, which are reported to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services pursuant to guidelines for pollution reduction. The bill allows access to such exempt records by the Department of Environmental Protection or a water management district. (H.B. 721)

A new law narrows the public records exemption for an organization’s marketing plan by specifying that the exemption applies only if the information could be utilized by a competitor to frustrate, circumvent or exploit the purpose of the plan before it is implemented. (H.B. 407)

A failed bill in the House would have kept searches for university and college presidents as well as for education commissioner confidential and would have made it a crime to disclose a candidate’s name. The bill mandated that the candidates remain a secret until a finalist is selected and made disclosing a candidate’s name a first-degree misdemeanor. (H.B. 1535)

A new law creates a public records exemption for information identifying recipients of or applicants for certain child support enforcement services provided by a county agency. The bill allows access to the information by court order. (S.B. 772)

A new law removes from public access all personally identifying information, bank account numbers, and debit, credit and charge card numbers contained in records about an individual’s personal health or eligibility for health-related services made or received by the Department of Health or its service providers. Disclosure of the information may only be made upon written consent of the individual, in a medical emergency or by a court order. (S.B. 840)

The governor signed a new law creating a public records exemption for identifying data contained in the deferred presentment provider database created and maintained by the Banking and Finance Department. (S.B. 892)

A new law will provide a public records exemption for certain trade secrets and other information contained in records of the Agency for Health Care Administration about pharmaceutical supplemental rebate negotiations. The law removes meetings of the Medicaid Pharmaceutical and Therapeutics Committee from the public domain. (S.B. 904)

Florida also enacted a statute allowing the release of all medical and care and treatment records to certain, specified persons in order to complete a medical malpractice investigation. (H.B. 947)

A new law amends the Public Records Law, making it a third-degree felony to use information about victims of crimes or accidents obtained from police reports for commercial solicitation purposes. (H.B. 1092)

The legislature exempted from the open records law: (1) records of meetings of nursing home risk-management and quality-assurance committees; (2) incident reports filed with facility risk managers and administrators; (3) notifications of adverse incidents; and (4) adverse incident reports. The legislation allows the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) to release such records to the appropriate law enforcement agency or regulatory board if AHCA has a reasonable belief that staff has engaged in criminal activities or misconduct requiring disciplinary action. Additionally, the legislation has an exemption for the meetings of nursing home risk-management and quality-assurance committees. (S.B. 1200)

The governor signed into law a public meetings exemption for portions of meetings in several health and welfare agencies where information is available on individuals who have applied for or are receiving temporary assistance. It also exempts from records information identifying such individuals.. (H.B. 1385)

A bill in the House would provide an exemption for trade secret information in records of an economic development agency relating to the plans, intentions, or interests of a private corporation to the open records law. The information would be exempt for 10 years after the agency receives a confidentiality request. (H.B. 1541)

A new law exempts the name, home or employment address, home or employment telephone number, or other personal information regarding people involved in auto accidents and contained in accident reports for 60 days. It grants access to certain parties, including print and broadcast journalists, during that 60 day period. Any government employee in possession of such information, who knowingly releases it to a person not entitled to access, is guilty of a third degree felony. The person who obtains or attempts to obtain the information is also guilty of a third degree felony. (H.B. 1805)

A new law amends a statute making it a second degree felony to willfully use personal identification data about an individual to commit a fraud that exceeds $75,000 in the amount of injury or the fraud itself. (H.B. 1845)

A new law provides a public records exemption for proprietary confidential business information received by the Governor, the Attorney General, or outside counsel representing the state in negotiations for settlement payments in accordance with the tobacco settlement agreement, or received by the Comptroller or the Auditor General for purposes of verifying the settlement payments. (S.B. 1562)

Signed into law is a public records exemption for personal information in records related to an individual’s health or eligibility for or receipt of health-related, elder-care, or long-term care services received under programs administered or financed by the Department of Elderly Affairs. Access to the records may be obtained with written consent of the subject of the record or his or her legal representative. (S.B. 1726)

Another new law provides for a public records exemption for the home addresses, telephone numbers, social security numbers and photographs of current or former human resource, labor relations, or employee relations managers or directors, and their spouses and children, of any local government agency or water management district whose duties are personnel related. (S.B. 1766)

And another new law exempts reports, audit files, notices of intent to audit, tax returns and other confidential tax information provided to the Department of Revenue regarding communication services taxes and the Communication Services Tax Simplification Law. (S.B. 1836)

Georgia

A new law prevents releasing social security numbers, mother’s birth name, credit and bank card numbers, bank account information, financial data and insurance or medical information in any public record. The bill, however, allows the disclosure of social security numbers and birth dates, excluding those of teachers and public school employees, upon a written oath that the information sought is for news gathering or reporting for a news organization. (S.B. 205)

The governor approved an act to exempt from disclosure under the open records law “the home address, the home telephone number, or the social security number of, or insurance or medical information about, teachers and employees of a public school.” The action followed a lobbying effort by teachers after the Atlanta newspapers published a series on criminal history records of school employees. (H.B. 65)

An act approved by the governor eliminates confidentiality provisions about the discipline of doctors and dentists and provides many other information access rights to the public. The State Composite Board of Medical Examiners will establish a public profile on all medical practitioners, which will include qualifications, hospital privileges, criminal charges, malpractice judgments and settlements, and disciplinary action taken by either Georgia or any other state licensing board. (H.B. 156)

Under current law, hospital authorities may keep commercially valuable, competitive plans confidential until approved or rejected by the governing board. The new law, which was signed by the governor, will extend the same rights to a nonprofit corporation that operates a hospital or medical facility for the benefit of a state entity. A last-minute amendment to the law keeps hospitals from releasing autopsy photos. (H.B. 158)

A bill signed into law will exclude from open records ride share or car pooling information that would disclose names, home addresses, phone numbers, hours of work, or other personal information concerning individuals in government-organized car pools or ride share programs. (H.B. 393)

A bill signed by the governor creates a Georgia higher education savings plan program and creates a state governmental body to administer the plan and the trust funds created by the public. Provisions in the bill exempt certain documents of the plan and trust fund from public disclosure. (H.B. 417)

A House bill in committee would block public access to records of 911 communication centers. (H.B. 338)

A bill in the House would have amended current law, which allows access to motor vehicle accident reports after 30 days for purposes of public interest research on accident prevention, determination of fault and similar purposes, to have allowed the Commissioner of Public Safety the ability to waive the 30-day period and give access, so long as personal information on the reports remained confidential. (H.B. 628)

A bill would have amended the Open Records law to exclude photographs of bodies of homicide victims in closed law enforcement investigation files from publication unless a release was obtained from the spouse, parent or adult children of the deceased. (H.B. 631)

A bill approved by the governor provides that notice to foreclose a real estate mortgage must include information identifying the new property owner. (H.B. 648)

Legislation in the Senate would proscribe disclosure of the identity of a person placing a 911 call, however, a transcript would be available. (H.B. 696)

A bill that remains in committee would restrict the circumstances by which insurance-related entities could obtain and disclose personal information about an applicant or insured person. A provision in the bill would have proscribed a defamation suit for disclosing such personal information or providing personal information to an insurance entity, as long as the information was not released with malice or willful intent to injure. (H.B. 446)

A bill in a House committee states that public agencies covered by the Open Meetings law include “every county Board of Equalization and every county Board of Tax Assessors.” (H.B. 137)

A bill in the House would have prohibited unauthorized commercial use of databases developed and owned by others. The bill provided a civil cause of action and a criminal penalty of five years imprisonment for willful and unauthorized commercialization of a database belonging to another. (S.B. 214)

Hawaii

A bill would have given crime victims constitutionally protected rights, including “appropriate rights to privacy, [and] protection.” Although the bill would not have directly affected the release of information, it stated that victims are “to be treated with courtesy, fairness and respect for their dignity and privacy” throughout the criminal justice process. The bill did not pass. (S.B. 780)

The Office of Information Practices would enforce violations of the state’s medical privacy law under a bill referred to House committees and carried over until the 2002 session. (H.B. 1157)

Another bill would repeal the state’s Health Care Privacy Act, Act 87, because of the possible implementation of the federal rules and regulations on medical privacy by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The bill was deferred until the 2002 session. (S.B. 77)

County councils could be excused from open meeting requirements under a bill allowing them to establish their own internal rules and procedures. The bill was held in Senate committees until next session. (S.B. 74)

Also deferred until next session is a bill requiring the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs to comply with the open meeting and information practice laws when forming contracts with cable television access organizations. (S.B. 615)

A proposed amendment to the open meetings law would require that informational briefings be included in the public notice requirement. An informational briefing “means the convening of the board, whether or not a quorum is required, for the purpose of receiving information that may be used toward a decision upon a matter over which the board has supervision, control, jurisdiction, or advisory power.” The amendment has been carried over to the 2002 session. (S.B. 899)

A proposed constitutional amendment would place on the ballot for the next general election the issue of expanding the public right of access to government. The amendment would ensure the right of access to all public body meetings and inspection of public records. The amendment has been carried over to the 2002 session. (S.B. 775)

Another bill carried over provides copies of government records will not exceed 25 cents per page. The bill was proposed after the legislature found that “the lack of a specific cap on fees leaves open the possibility that fees charged by public agencies will provide profit rather than reimbursement to agencies and will reduce public access to government documents.” (H.B. 838)

Free internet access to bills, resolutions, committee reports, hearing notices and other legislative documents may be obsolete if a new bill is passed. It provides, “the practice of providing printed copies of legislative documents to the public, without charge, has for the most part become a burden on the taxpayer that is unjustified and unnecessary.” The legislature suggests that new fees such as subscription fees need be imposed. The bill was carried over to the 2002 session. (H.B. 1114)

Sealing of court records would be limited in a bill prohibiting sealing of the adjudication of a case. Other court records may be sealed if a “specific, serious, and substantial interest” clearly outweighs the presumption of openness and if disclosure would have an adverse affect upon the health or safety of the general public. The bill was carried over to the 2002 session. (H.B. 1350)

An amendment to the state’s open meetings law would include policy advisory panels. Any committees that provide planning policy advice concerning communities facilities and receive any state or county funding would be subject to public meeting requirements. The bill was carried over to the 2002 session. (H.B. 1365)

Idaho

A new law will create an open records exemption for a broad list of “jail operations records” of the Department of Corrections. (H.B. 18a)

Another new law will make a broad exclusion for public access to certain Department of Insurance records. (H.B. 35a)

A new law is intended to protect prisoners from having their records released to another prisoner. (H.B. 62)

The governor signed a law that prohibits requests for prosecuting attorney records when the requester is a litigant who can get the same records through discovery procedures. (H.B. 151a)

A bill withdrawn by its sponsor would have exempted “all files of prosecuting attorneys” from the open records law. (H.B. 152)

A bill that would have excluded records of the Industrial Commission regarding the Crime Victims Compensation Act from the public record, did not emerge from committee. (S.B. 1045)

A Senate bill would require the publication in a newspaper of a new school safety inspection report on unsafe and unhealthy conditions. The bill did not emerge from a House committee. (S.B. 1110)

A Senate bill, which did not emerge from committee, would have allowed highway contractors to withhold names of project subcontractors from their bidding forms. (S.B. 1138)

A bill in the Senate would have provided expanded public notice of hearings and elections on proposed annexations by cities. It did not emerge from committee. (S.B. 1151)

A bill in the Senate that did not advance from committee would have exempted real property transfer or sale certificates required to be filed with a county assessor from the public domain. (S.B. 1154)

Illinois

Legislation that would amend the Freedom of Information Act and the Attorney General Act was in the Senate Rules Committee in late July. The bill would authorize the Office of Public Records Access Counsel within the Office of the Attorney General to educate the public and public bodies about access to public records as well as issue advisory opinions. (H.B. 2233)

Legislation to keep elected officials from conducting private meetings was delayed in a House committee and is expected to be heard in October. The bill, which is referred to as the “verbatim record” bill, would require public agencies to tape-record private sessions, so a judge could review the recording to determine whether a closed meeting violated open meetings law. (H.B. 3098)

A measure that did not emerge from either house would have amended the Medical Practice Act of 1987 to provide for the public release of individual profiles of physicians, including information relating to criminal charges, administrative disciplinary actions, hospital privilege revocations, and medical malpractice awards. (H.B. 246; S.B. 1287)

A measure that did not emerge from the House would have provided that information obtained by the Department of Insurance pertaining to the financial condition of insurers or obtained through investigations is confidential and could not be publicly disclosed (H.B. 2555)

Legislation, if signed by the governor, would require government agencies to disclose lawsuit settlements. Lawsuit settlements between inmates and the Department of Corrections are excluded from forced disclosure. (H.B. 3078)

A measure, which did not emerge from the Senate, required the Legislative Information System to make roll call votes, transcripts of debates, and audio streams controlled by the Clerk of the House and the Secretary of the Senate available to the public in electronic form. Additionally, the bill required that the audio streams must be made available uninterrupted and digitally recordable on the Internet. (S.B. 813)

A proposed “Privacy Protection Act,” which remains in committee, would prohibit a constitutional officer or a state agency under a constitutional officer from selling personal information regarding state citizens for commercial solicitation purposes without the written consent of each person whose information will be sold. (H.B. 211)

Indiana

Gov. Frank O’Bannon in May vetoed a bill passed by both chambers to formally exempt the General Assembly from the Access to Public Records Act. The House has until the end of the 2002 session to override the veto. (H.B. 1083)

A new law authorizes the General Assembly to allow video or audio coverage of the legislature over the Internet or other broadcasting medium.(H.B. 1100)

A House bill, which failed in the Senate, made clear that public agencies could hold an executive session to interview employees who were eligible for promotion to a vacant position or a promotion. (H.B. 1293)

A bill that failed to advance from committee would have limited the costs public agencies could charge for computer-generated maps. (H.B. 1402)

House and Senate bills that would have made lottery ticket sales information of individual stores confidential were each declined after a hearing by the other chamber. (H.B. 1427; S.B. 175)

A new law eliminates automatic waiver fees for public agencies, journalists, non-profits, and academics for copies of computer-generated maps. (H.B. 1503)

A House bill, which failed to emerge from committee, would have established uniform public access to juror information in the state. (H.B. 1505)

A new law limits the information available about customers of municipally owned utilities. (H.B. 1549)

A bill passed by the House and Senate would make records confidential of emergency medical service patients or locations of runs because of new federal regulations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Prior to the passing of the bill, a State Emergency Management Agency attorney determined that ambulance runs should be confidential because emergency medical technicians and paramedics were “medical providers” under Indiana law. (H.B. 1570)

A bill, which was not heard in a committee, would have made property sales disclosure forms confidential. (H.B. 1696)

A bill that did not emerge from the Senate attempted to make license applications for casino workers confidential. (H.B. 1729)

A bill that included provisions to improve access laws that were suggested by a public access counselor failed. (H.B. 1738)

A new law provides profiles for individuals licensed by any of the 20 medical boards. The profile includes disciplinary action taken against an individual during the last 10 years. This information must be made available to the public, which includes posting it on the Internet through Access Indiana. (H.B. 1770)

A bill, which was not given a hearing in a Senate committee, would make disciplinary personnel records confidential unless the discipline was termination or suspension without pay. (H.B. 1796)

A bill, which did not emerge from a House committee, would have clarified that the Indiana Department of Transportation can maintain confidential documents concerning negotiations with landowners about land purchases until the negotiation process ends. (H.B. 1895)

A new law creates local child fatality review teams, which are required to comply with the state’s access laws. (H.B. 2031)

A bill, signed by the governor, proscribes recording of mortgage documents that include social security numbers. (H.B. 2117)

A bill signed into law contains a provision that limits the secrecy of investigations by the Indiana Ethics Commission. (S.B. 25)

Another new law provides that public pension fund records and information are confidential except for names and years of service of the recipients. (S.B. 107)

A new law makes charter schools subject to the Open Door Law and Access to Public Records Act. It requires charter schools to publish an annual school performance report. (S.B. 165)

A Senate bill that failed in the House would provide for election materials to be made available for inspection and copying following the recount period. (S.B. 237)

Both Houses have passed a bill that provides that information gathered by police agencies about pawnbroker transactions is confidential. (S.B. 318)

An autopsy bill patterned after Florida’s new statute establishes that photographs, and audio and video recordings of an autopsy may not be disclosed by a public agency. Under the law, a requestor will have the opportunity to petition a court to release the records; currently, disclosure is at the discretion of the county coroner. The bill remains in committee. (S.B. 436)

A new law provides for a program for address-confidentiality through the attorney general’s office to protect the location of individuals who have a secured protective order and fear domestic violence. (S.B. 448)

A bill that failed to advance out of a House committee would have allowed the state Department of Correction to make confidential all documents concerning an execution. The bill was amended and narrowed by limiting the confidentiality portions of executions to records that would identify employees involved in the execution. (S.B. 517)

Iowa

A new law restricts Iowa’s Open Records Law so government contractors are not protected by a whistle blowers statute that protects communications made by people outside government. (S.B. 344)

A bill would have required that the entire file in a domestic abuse case be closed to the public until the case is complete and time for appeals has expired. (S.B. 241)

A bill would have made all information in a gun permit application confidential. The bill will sit in committee until next session. (H.B. 173)

A bill would have permitted school board members to hold closed sessions to “evaluate and discuss board member performance.” The bill was passed by the House but the closed session proposal was eliminated. (H.B. 389)

Kansas

Legislation approved by the governor provides that meetings of advisory committees or subcommittee meetings shall be open to the public. It also requires that notice be given according to Kansas access laws. (H.B. 2299)

The Land Stewardship and Productivity Act, which is in a Senate conference committee, requires that the board of county commissioners of each county and the governing body of any city that employs a weed director shall, at least annually, give the public general notice of all noxious weeds growing in the geographic area for which the weed director is responsible. (H.B. 2468)

Another bill, which may still be heard during the interim or 2002 session, would provide that counties publish a notice 10 days before a hearing for the purchase of goods or services in amounts exceeding $100,000. (S.B. 210)

A Senate bill that failed would have required that whenever an individual sold space in any newspaper, magazine or other periodical to a candidate or to a candidate committee, party committee or political committee, the advertising cost would not exceed comparable advertising rates. Intentionally overcharging would be a misdemeanor. (S.B. 290)

A bill failed to pass that would have required that the Crime Victims Compensation Board be notified in writing of any publication by a criminal offender. The board would be required to notify all known victims of the possible existence of profits, which includes publishing notice in a newspaper where the crime was committed. (S.B. 231)

Kentucky

Lawmakers defeated a bill that would have removed newspapers from exempted businesses under the state’s telemarketing law. The House and Senate each passed a version of the proposal, which died in conference committee. (S.B. 192, H.B. 54)

A bill failed that would have allowed cities to set up their own newspapers for public notices and general interest news, including obituaries and wedding announcements. (H.B. 213)

Louisiana

The legislature passed a bill requiring that all exceptions to the public records law be listed in the statute. (H.B. 1173)

Lawmakers defeated a bill that would have allowed themselves to meet in video conferences between legislative sessions. (H.B. 212)

A bill failed that would have exempted disciplinary records of public employees from the open records law. (H.B. 308)

A new law forbids copying of autopsy photographs, but the law allows public inspection of autopsy photos. (H.B. 484) Another proposal failed that would have given family members the final say over whether autopsy records are public. (S.B. 949)

The legislature defeated a bill that would have closed off 911 tapes from public access. (H.B. 825)

A bill that would have closed some meetings of the state gaming commission to the public was defeated. (H.B. 1038)

A proposal failed that would have prohibited the release of any exit polling data prior to the close of polls. (H.B. 1849)

Lawmakers adopted a bill that closes off the disciplinary records of pharmacists from the public record. (H.B. 1886)

The legislature defeated a measure that would have exempted e-mail from the public records law. (H.B. 1894)

A bill failed that would have allowed the legislature not to publish bills that affect only localized areas of the state. (S.B. 218)

A bill that would have eliminated disclosure of jurors’ addresses was withdrawn by its sponsor. (S.B. 316)

A proposal failed that would have banned telemarketing after 6 p.m. (S.B. 384)

Maine

The legislature passed a bill limiting the type of information that can be released to the public about epidemiologic investigations. The restrictions apply only to the data collection phase of the investigation and to information about an identifiable individual. (L.D. 1384)

Lawmakers agreed to remove confidential treatment for medical examiner reports except to the extent they could be withheld due to an ongoing criminal investigation. Photographs and pathology slides are now confidential, as are suicide notes. (L.D. 1645)

A bill was defeated that would have closed access to property tax assessments of real estate used for business purposes. (L.D. 1654)

Lawmakers enacted a bill that will keep confidential all complaints of violations of state campaign finance laws received in the 10 days preceding an election. (P.L 237)

The legislature passed a bill that will keep secret complaints about emergency medical technicians during the complaint’s investigation. Once the probe is complete, the record is open. (P.L. 229)

A new law requires public Web sites that collect personal information to post a notice describing the information that is being collected, how it will be used, and what options users have to prevent disclosure of the information. (P.L. 321)

Lawmakers approved a measure that allows the Maine Turnpike Authority to keep secret its property acquisition plans. (P.L. 158)

A new law keeps secret the home addresses and social security numbers of physicians and osteopaths. (P.L. 214)

Two new laws expand access for crime victims to inmate records and information about the offender’s imprisonment and release. (L.D. 1050, P.L. 208)

Lawmakers defeated a proposal to create a resource person within state government to study ways to protect personal privacy. (L.D. 270)

A bill failed that would have changed when the public utilities commission must give notices of its meetings. (L.D. 1385)

A proposal died that would have allowed school boards to deliberate in private. (L.D. 1482)

Maryland

A new bill would have required the Motor Vehicle Administration to keep records of alcohol-related violations committed by persons under the age of 21. The material would be made available only to specified entities and the disclosure of records would be prohibited except under specified circumstances. The bill died in committee. (H.B. 509)

A bill would bar colleges from divulging personally identifiable information of enrolled students for commercial use. The bill died in committee. (H.B. 819)

A bill attempted to repeal a law that prohibits expungement of an individual’s record if the individual has been convicted of other crimes or is a defendant in a pending criminal proceeding. Furthermore, it would have abrogated the limitation on the expungement of criminal records to only one criminal act which is not a violent crime that is granted a full pardon by the Governor. The bill failed in committee. (H.B. 542)

Under a new law, the Charles County Commissioners may prohibit persons from soliciting money or business on a controlled access highway, median or intersection. The bill could affect newspaper hawkers. (S.B. 225)

Massachusetts

The legislature is considering a bill that would extend work product and attorney-client privileges to prosecuting attorneys. (H.B. 2198)

Michigan

Lawmakers passed a bill that requires non-profit corporations created by cities to comply with the Open Meetings Act. (S.B. 361)

The legislature is considering a bill that would amend the state Freedom of Information Act to exclude access to school directories (K-12 and colleges). The bill includes an exemption for media organizations, which will continue to have access to the information. (H.B. 4874)

Minnesota

Lawmakers failed to pass a bill that would have expanded the open meetings law to cover caucuses and conference committee meetings. (S.F. 92)

A bill that would have added requirements for disclosing campaign contributions failed to pass. The proposal also would have required the state to publish a voters guide. (S.F. 388)

The legislature approved a bill that requires disclaimers on paid political ads published in newspapers or magazines to be in at least 10-point type. (S.F. 682)

A proposal failed that would have required state police agencies to keep data on racial profiling and provide some of the information to the public. (S.F. 903, S.F. 386, H.F. 1029, S.F. 982, H.F. 505)

A measure failed that would have applied the open meetings law to meetings of the governing bodies of volunteer firefighter associations. (S.F. 451)

Lawmakers defeated a bill that would have required the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to charge a $5 fee for Internet access to the public criminal history file. (S.F. 1478)

The legislature passed a bill that requires agencies to classify electronic data as private or nonpublic information. (S.F. 1725, H.F. 1959)

Mississippi

Lawmakers changed legislative rules requiring all conference committees to be open except for Appropriations. The new rule requires that the public have notice of meetings that includes room assignments and a list of each bill assigned to the committee. (S.C.R.584)

Lawmakers defeated measures that would have added enforcement provisions to the open meetings law. The bill would have made violators of the open meetings law liable for a $100 fine and “all reasonable expenses incurred by such person bringing the lawsuit.” A public body violating the open meetings law could have sought a judgment against the member of that body in violation of the law. (S.B. 3002)

A bill failed that would have regulated unsolicited phone calls. (S.B. 2362)

Missouri

A bill that would have closed “personally identifiable student records” of elementary and secondary school students died. (H.B. 262)

Legislation that may be considered next session would have changed provisions relating to student records by making almost all information except the name of a student confidential at secondary and elementary schools. (L.B. 394)

A new law prohibits the Department of Revenue from releasing information regarding a peace officer from motor vehicle or driver registration records except for commercial drivers license information. However, records are available to the news media for reasons of public safety. (S.B. 4)

A new law prohibits the Department of Revenue from collecting or displaying on a driver’s license information that could individually identify the person unless there is specific statutory authorization to collect such information. For example, the Department of Revenue could not use an individual’s DNA information on the magnetic strip of the drivers license.(H.B. 897)

An amendment to a Senate bill that would have closed meetings and records at public hospitals remains in committee. (S.B. 375)

A bill that would have required the office of the coroner to complete an incident report for public inspection and copying within 72 hours of occurrence or discovery of a death did not emerge from committee. The report would have included the name, age and gender of the deceased as well as the location where the body was found. (S.B. 422; 486)

A measure authorizing a court to set aside a person’s criminal convictions and seal a person’s criminal record if the person met certain requirements was not acted upon. (S.B. 426)

A bill, which emerged from committee and will be up for consideration during the 2002 legislative session, would require that certain investigatory proceedings of the state Police Standards Advisory Council be open to the public. (L.B. 14)

Another bill that will be up for consideration next session would limit public access to certain court records, particularly those involved in the determination of the state inheritance taxes. (L.B. 88)

A bill that may be considered next session would have imposed additional distance limitations on exit polls, prohibiting exit polling from within 200 feet. (L.B. 125)

A measure was not approved that would have permitted public meetings by telephone for almost all state public bodies. (L.B. 284)

A bill, which remains in committee, would have changed the hours during which election polls are open. (L.B. 77)

A bill did not pass that would have required that any individual who purchases print or broadcast advertising for any candidate for public office fill out and sign a form to be prepared by the Missouri Ethics Commission. The media then would be responsible to deliver, mail, send by fax a copy of the signed form to the ethics commission within 24 hours of the initial publication of the advertisement or broadcast. (H.B. 541)

Montana

The legislature passed a bill restricting disclosure of driver’s license records based on the federal Drivers Privacy Protection Act. The new law prohibits the sale of personal information and forbids the release of photos and information without permission of the state’s Department of Justice. (S.B. 293)

Lawmakers approved a bill that expands the state’s open records law to include e-mail. (H.B. 112)

A new law requires state agencies that host Web sites to provide notice of their information collecting practices. The law forbids collecting personally identifiable information unless the Web site complies with certain provisions. (H.B. 281)

The legislature passed a bill that restricts what kind of information on marriage certificates can be released to the public. (S.B. 148)

Lawmakers applied the state’s privacy balancing test to lawsuit settlement agreements involving the state, requiring that the agreements be made public unless privacy concerns outweigh the merits of public disclosure. (S.B. 209)

Nebraska

During the selection of a new chancellor at the University of Nebraska, the press association watched some legislators discuss closing off public access to applications of high level public officials but serious discussion of the measure ended for this session with the chancellor’s selection.

The legislature considered a proposed resolution to withhold election results until all polls have closed in the state, which crosses two time zones. The measure was put on hold, however, until an interim study can be conducted. (L.B. 125)

Nevada

A new law prohibits government officials from secretly settling lawsuits and other claims. The law makes any settlement agreement involving a government agency or employee a public record. In addition, the amount of any attorney’s fees and costs to be paid by the government must be disclosed. (A.B.277)

Lawmakers banned the practice of “serial meetings” through a change to the state open meetings law. The law prohibits boards from evading the law by holding a series of closed-door meetings that fall short of quorum requirements. (A.B.225)

The legislature defeated an attempt to make public any lawsuit settlement agreement that conceals a significant public health danger or involves defective products that kill or injure people. (S.B. 411