A 10-bill legislative package was introduced in the State Legislature that would open up legislative communications to the public. Eight of the bills (HBs 5469 – 5476) create the Legislative Open Records Act (LORA), which mirrors the FOIA, but is applicable only to the State Legislature. The final two bills (HBs 5477 – 5478) expand FOIA to the Governor’s office. The entire proposal would go into effect on January 1, 2017 and would not be retroactive.
Under LORA, constituent communications are exempt from requests, meaning that if a local superintendent, or other official who is not a registered lobbyist, communicated with a lawmaker, that communication would not be subject to a public request. Other exemptions include:
- Personnel records that are personal in nature, such as human resources files;
- Records relating to an ongoing internal or legislative investigation or litigation;
- Advisory communications within the public body or between public bodies;
- Trade, commercial, or financial records provided confidentially to assist in public policy;
- Communications regarding bill drafting, sergeant-at-arms security issues, and auditor general records; and
- Records exclusively maintained by legislative caucuses.
Status: The bills have been referred to the House Oversight and Ethics committee. A hearing is expected to take place at the end of April.