Governor Scott Walker’s office said Friday that he plans to work with legislative leaders to “make changes” to a controversial set of proposals aimed at Wisconsin’s open records law, before the full budget bill makes its way to his desk.
Republicans on the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee on Thursday added a series of provisions to the state budget dealing with Wisconsin’s open records law. If approved by the Legislature, they would severely restrict public access to most records kept by elected officials at the state and local levels. Critics argue the measure would likely prevent the public from finding out who had input on legislation taken up at the Capitol and would deal a serious blow to open government in the state.
Walker’s office on Friday had initially only said the governor would review the full budget when it reaches his desk. However, in an updated statement later in the day, Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick said “Prior to the budget going to the full Legislature for action, Governor Walker plans to work with legislative leaders to make changes to the provisions included in the current proposal related to the state’s open records law. ”
Patrick did not indicate what specific changes Walker wants lawmakers to consider.
The measure sparked a firestorm of criticism on Friday, with Democrats and watchdog groups on both sides of the political aisle blasting the restrictions it would place on public access to records.
Republicans have not said who asked for the changes, only attributing them to “multiple requests.” WRN and several other media outlets have filed open records requests seeking information about the origins of the proposal.
The language added by Joint Finance does mirror some of the arguments made by Governor Walker’s administration in responding to open records requests earlier this year. Those requests, which were seeking information about proposed changes to the “Wisconsin Idea” that were initially included in the state budget, have resulted in lawsuits from The Progressive magazine and Center for Media and Democracy.
The state Assembly is expected to open debate on the budget bill sometime next week.