In the face of harsh criticism, Governor Scott Walker and Republicans leaders announced Saturday that controversial changes to Wisconsin’s open records law will be removed from the state budget.
The provisions, which would restrict public access to most records generated by state and local elected officials, were added to the budget late Thursday night as language in one of the final motions taken up by the Joint Finance Committee. The previously undisclosed additions drew fire from journalists, the state’s attorney general, and open government groups on both sides of the political aisle. Many have argued the proposal would severely restrict public awareness of the influences on legislative decisions.
As most of the state was celebrating Independence Day, Governor Scott Walker and legislative leaders released the following statement:
“After substantive discussion over the last day, we have agreed that the provisions relating to any changes in the state’s open records law will be removed from the budget in its entirety. We are steadfastly committed to open and accountable government. The intended policy goal of these changes was to provide a reasonable solution to protect constituents’ privacy and to encourage a deliberative process between elected officials and their staff in developing policy. It was never intended to inhibit transparent government in any way.
In order to allow for further debate on this issue outside of budget process, the Legislature will form a Legislative Council committee to more appropriately study it and allow for public discussion and input.”
The full Legislature is expected to begin debate on the budget bill next week.