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As I See It

Some change to Wisconsin open records laws ok

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Once again, they are talking in Madison about making changes to the state’s open records laws. But this time it may not be a bad thing. Open government activists are understandably nervous about changes to Wisconsin’s open records laws, given that some lawmakers basically tried to gut the law as part of the state budget. They failed, but indicated they still think changes are needed. They are probably right. But only those changes which enhance, not restrict the state’s laws. Attorney General Brad Schimel is making updating the open records laws a priority. They haven’t been updated since 1981. Much has changed since then. For example, Schimel points out, the word “electronic” does not appear anywhere in the current records laws. Yet technology has evolved so that many records are now kept electronically. The state’s laws should be updated to reflect that. Today, Schimel will host a summit on open government in Madison. Among the ideas that should be discussed, as proposed by the Freedom of Information Council, is to require that electronic communication be kept as long as paper records. Other ideas include banning electronic communications between members of a government body during public meetings and to require audio or video recordings of closed meetings. We shouldn’t be afraid of possible changes to Wisconsin’s open records laws, but we also have to be diligent to ensure lawmakers don’t try to pull another fast one.

Scott Robert Shaw serves as WIZM Program Director and News Director, and delivers the morning news on WKTY, Z-93 and 95.7 The Rock. Scott has been at Mid-West Family La Crosse since 1989, and authors Wisconsin's only daily radio editorial, "As I See It" heard on WIZM each weekday morning and afternoon.

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