Oregon AG Wants Public Records Opened

SALEM, Ore. (CN) — Responding to criticism that Oregon public records laws are “poor to pathetic,” the attorney general proposed a law requiring state agencies to turn over public records within 10 days whenever possible.
     Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum on Friday also submitted proposed legislation to protect agencies and their employees from liability when a public record is released.
     She also wants to state to create an easily searchable database of all exemptions to public records disclosure.
     Rosenblum last year created a public records task force of members of state government, journalists and broadcasters, which spurred the proposed law.
     Oregon law requires agencies to “respond as soon as practicable and without unreasonable delay” to records requests and “furnish proper and reasonable opportunities” to the records.
     Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nigel Jaquiss called the public records process in Oregon “poor to pathetic,” citing more than 500 exemptions to its public records laws.
     Florida, by contrast, has only four exemptions, and has clear deadlines for records requests, according to a Portland Tribune opinion piece by the Oregon Territory Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
     A 2015 national report by the Center for Public Integrity gave Oregon an F grade for public access to information, ranking it 34th in the nation in that category.
     At a task force meeting in April, the group sought firm deadlines for records requests, a proposal that met some resistance from representatives of cities, counties and school boards.
     Rosenblum called the proposed changes “overdue” and called a public hearing on the proposed changes in Bend on Aug. 18.
     The proposal includes a five-day deadline for agencies to acknowledge receiving a records request, with the expectation that records will be turned over within 10 business days.
     “It is important to emphasize that we cannot implement these suggested reforms without the active support and involvement of our governor and the Legislature,” Rosenblum said.

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