The abundance of state legislation restricting access to public records is depressing for open government advocates. But the head in the sand approach won’t preserve access, so here are some of the Bills under consideration by state legislatures.
HB 269, An act prohibiting “pretexting” as a means of obtaining personally identifiable information, would invoke civil penalties for any use of pretexting to obtain any personally identifying information.
HB 686 would prohibit anyone from electronically tracking another person without that person’s consent.
HB 729 includes a prohibition on retaining or storing personal information on drivers’ licenses in an electronic form.
Legislation introduced in Arizona aims to remove all victim information from police reports before they’re released to journalists, attorneys, private investigators or the public in general. SB 1286 states: “A victim’s contact and identifying information that is obtained, compiled or reported by a law enforcement agency shall be redacted by the originating agency in publicly accessible records pertaining to the criminal case involving the victim. “
SB1286 has other flaws as well. By requiring law enforcement to keep victim information out of public records (instead of redacting or blacking out the information when appropriate), the bill could force police agencies to spend millions of dollars to install new computer software and to redesign reports in order to create two sets of documents — one for public release and one for the criminal justice system to operate fairly.
California State Sen. Ron Calderon has introduced SB 690, legislation that was expected to allow District Attorneys to release personal information on arrestees and parolees, which an Attorney General Opinion had said violated the right to privacy. Unfortunately the bill appears to have become restrictive to the point that private investigators and the public might have more difficulty obtaining police reports under the California Public Records Act.
Notwithstanding any other law, a local agency may, in response to a written request made pursuant to Section 6253 of the Government Code, provide information from a local summary criminal history, if the person making the request declares under penalty of perjury that the request is made for a scholarly or journalistic purpose and the release of the information would enhance public safety, the interest of justices, or the public’s understanding of the justice system.
California Assemblymember Dave Jones has submitted AB 1168, a bill regulating public records which contain social security numbers.
The California Public Records Act requires state and local agencies to make their records available for public inspection unless a record is exempt from disclosure. The act exempts from disclosure, among others, any record that is a personnel, medical, or similar file the disclosure of which would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.
This bill would provide that, notwithstanding these provisions, a local agency shall not disclose to the public any record that is required to be open to the public by any provision of law if that record displays more than the last four digits of any social security number.
A vague bill, AB 703 requires that records containing social security numbers be destroyed.
Last year’s failed bill, SB 1666, has returned in the form of SB 328, Personal Information: Prohibited Practices.
The bill would also prohibit any person, as defined, from, among other things, obtaining or attempting to obtain, or causing or attempting to cause the disclosure of, personal information about a customer or employee contained in the records of a business through specified methods, such as by making false, fictitious, or fraudulent statements or representations, with specified exceptions.
Two bills at the state legislature would make private records that are currently public. New Mexico publicly-owned utilities must provide copies of all its records, under current law, but the presumption of openness that has characterized the release of government records shifting toward closure.
One proposed law, HB 279, from Rep. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, would prohibit the disclosure of consumers’ nonpublic personal information.
Another bill, House Bill 1027 from Rep. Patty Lundstrom, D-Gallup, would exempt from the right to inspect public records any law enforcement record of “individuals accused but not charged with a crime,” discharge papers of a veteran and “the residential addresses of customers of municipal or county utilities.”
Is your state government proposing similar legislation?