Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Wisc. governor boosts open records laws, while lawmakers mull pulling public notices from papers

Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker last week issued an executive order "making it easier for the public to find state government notices and meeting minutes," Molly Beck reports for the Wisconsin State Journal. During last year's Sunshine Week, which this year runs through Saturday, Walker ordered improvements to how open records are handled, Matthew DeFour reports for the Journal.

Meanwhile, state lawmakers are considering bills "that would do-away with the newspaper publication of local-government meeting minutes," reports The Polk County Sun. "Assembly Bill 70 and its companion bill, Senate Bill 42, would give school boards, city councils, village boards, county boards and technical college boards the option to post meeting minutes and proceedings on their own websites to fulfill publication requirements instead of printing them in a local newspaper, which is currently required by state law."

Walker on Thursday "asked state agencies to post the most commonly requested documents online to be readily available to the public, and to post how quickly their officials respond to records requests under the state’s open records law," Beck writes. "Walker’s order requires the Department of Administration to improve the state’s public notice website by requiring all state government public notices and meeting minutes to be uploaded to the site."

"The order also requires each agency to post the total number of public records requests received, the total number of requests the agency responded to and the average time it took to fulfill the request," Beck writes. "State officials also will create and manage a single email address for agencies to use to send their meeting notices and minutes and all agency public records email addresses will be posted" online.

On March 11, 2016, Walker issued an "executive order directing state agencies to respond to requests promptly, update requesters on the status of their requests, track all requests and facilitate access to electronic records whenever possible," DeFour writes. "In the 14 months prior to the order, the average response time to fill 8,448 requests was 13 workdays. The average response time to fulfill 10,395 requests since has been nine workdays, a 30 percent improvement."

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