Even though Republicans say they will drop changes to Wisconsin’s open records law, one advocate of public disclosure is still wary about what the future may have in store.
Governor Scott Walker and Republican leaders announced over the weekend that changes to the open records law, which would have prevented the public from accessing most details surrounding the crafting of legislation take up by lawmakers, will be removed from the state budget. Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee proposed and passed the provision last Thursday, and the reversal came in the face of mounting public criticism.
The release also indicated that a Legislative Council committee will be formed to further study the issue of open records access, which could propose legislation for lawmakers to consider. Bill Lueders with the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council said he’s “very concerned” about a process that could open up the law to changes, especially when he says there’s no evidence changes are warranted. “I don’t think the case has been made that there’s a need for it,” Leuders said.
Some Republicans have defended the changes as necessary to help protect an open dialogue about drafting legislation, because some people may be afraid to speak up publicly if there name is attached to an unpopular idea. Leuders said the solution offered last week went far beyond that though, by concealing both the names and the communications themselves. “What was proposed here was really radical and draconian,” he said.
So far, Republican leaders have declined to say which lawmakers asked for the proposal to be added to the state budget.