Recently, late in the evening of Thursday, July 2, the powerful Legislative Joint Finance Committee approved last-minute changes to Wisconsin's Open Records Law in the 2015-'17 budget by 12 Republican votes and four dissenting Democratic votes. These changes were added without the knowledge nor any input from the public! As of yet, no GOP lawmaker has taken responsibility for drafting the changes.
The proposed changes would have restricted public records communications with current and former staff, drafting records of legislation, as well as records created by the Walker administration, state agencies, and local governments.
On July 4 news media across the state urged citizens to contact their government lawmakers and request they remove the proposed changes to the Open Records Law. Of the emails I sent to lawmakers and public officials, only a reply from Assembly Speaker Robin Vos addressed my concerns. He said that “After substantive discussion…we have agreed…that any changes in the state’s open records law would be removed…The intended policy goal of these changes was to provide a reasonable solution to protect constituents….It was never intended to inhibit transparent government.” However, their self-serving action suggests that GOP members are trying to hide information from the public!
In the end, the voice of the people from throughout the state demonstrated to the Republican lawmakers that Wisconsin deserves and expects transparent government. Lawmakers, however, have not abandoned this issue and have called for a legislative study to further explore changes to Wisconsin’s Open Records Law. This is a bipartisan issue that should concern every citizen. In the coming days, citizens need to contact their elected officials and voice their opinion on this most important issue.