A bill to make government records more open to the public passed the South Dakota state Senate, but was killed by one vote on Wednesday in the House State Affairs Committee.
SB 189 was introduced by state Sen. Nancy Turbak Berry and stated that both state and local government documents are open to the public unless explicitly sealed by state law.
Critics said the bill went too far and would not protect disclosure on private individuals and corporations.
Yet, Turbak specifically included two sections in the bill that aimed to prevent “unwarranted release” of information that would endanger the public or cause “irreparable harm to an individual.”
David Bordewyk of the South Dakota Newspaper Association, testified in support of reform in the committee. He said he was disappointed when the bill failed to pass.
“It’s a bill that would have taken a huge step toward open government at both the state and local level,” Bordewyk said. “It would have created a presumption of openness.”
Gov. Mike Rounds (R) did not support the legislation, even though 49 other states have similar laws.
SB 186, however, passed unanimously. This bill improves the procedure for appealing decisions not to release records, making it quicker and less expensive. It contains a new process to request records and allows citizens to take disputes to a hearing examiner if the government official denies the request.