A last minute state budget proposal would exempt most communications and research done by state lawmakers, their staff, and legislative employees from Wisconsin’s open records law.
Under the language included in the wrap-up motion being considered Thursday evening by the Joint Finance Committee, many records or correspondence from lawmakers, legislative staff, and officers of the Legislature would not be subject to public disclosure. It would also make it clear that lawmakers have a right to refuse to release any communications or related records created as a result of legislative business, including drafting files and research done in the course of drafting legislation.
If approved, the changes could greatly limit public access to the records the media often relies on to find out how legislation was influenced, such as drafting records and other research.
Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council President Bill Lueders called the proposal a “tremendous blow to open government.” He added that adding the measure to an omnibus motion on the cusp of a holiday weekend was a “cowardly way of changing the law.”
Lueders said “Wisconsin’s tradition of open government has served it well,” and he hopes the public will rise up and fight the proposal.