The thrust of a bill moved 180 degrees – from denying citizens records to empowering them to seek records in the format of their choice – during a House Government and Regulatory Reform Committee hearing last week.
H.B. 1304, initially tagged the pro-grumpy public servant bill by Steve Key, executive director and general counsel of HSPA, now puts control in the hand of a records requester as to whether he or she would like a copy of a public record by e-mail, fax or mail.
“I’ve never seen a public access-related bill undergo such a change,” Key said.
Rep. Milo Smith, R-Columbus, offered the amendment that changed HSPA’s position on H.B. 1304 from oppose to support.
Smith was privy to a situation where a local government agency refused to e-mail a public record maintained in an electronic format, requiring the record requester to drive to the agency office to pick up a paper copy of the document.
The bill’s author, Rep. Bill Friend, R-Macy, endorsed Smith’s amendment.
As originally written, H.B. 1234 would have allowed a public official to refuse to give a copy of a record to a citizen who had taken the time to come into a government office if that record was posted on a website where it could be downloaded.
Friend said his intent was to drive more records onto websites where citizens could access them, freeing up more time for public officials to handle other duties, but he admitted the language sent the wrong message.
Rep. Scott Reske, D-Pendleton, described the original bill as “un-American.”
With the Smith amendment changing the tone of the bill, it passed out of committee 11-2.