Saturday, July 4, 2015

Walker and GOP Heroes? The Assault on Open Records, they passed, suddenly pulled...for now.

Don't be deceived or believe for one moment this issue is off the table, even after reading this headline:
"Scott Walker, legislative leaders drop open records changes" - Wisconsin State Journal
Think about it. The entire repeal/change of the open records law may be scrubbed right now, but for some unknown reason needs to be debated even more. Like there's a nuance in all of this that most of us are missing?
To the rescue...?
In the face of withering criticism, Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican leaders of the Legislature announced Saturday that provisions added to the state budget to slash the state’s open records law “will be removed from the budget in its entirety” … the Legislature will form a Legislative Council committee to study the issue outside of the budget process.
Let's not forget who thought this was a great idea:
Twelve Republican lawmakers on the budget committee approved the omnibus measure Thursday, while all four of the panel's Democratic members opposed it. Republicans refused to say who initiated the measures and the reasoning for it. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald supported the changes. GOP Rep. Dean Knudson of Hudson said the changes clarify what is a record for lawmakers and would “make it easier for us all to stay on the right side (of the laws).”
The picture to the right is just a sample of the reaction most people had. But I thought the following comment in the Lakeland Times editorial "Our View: The Wisconsin Republican Party: Corruption, cronyism, and sleaze," was priceless:
"For those who live in a cave — and we all will be if the Republicans get their way — the majority members of the Joint Finance Committee voted for a surprise motion Thursday night...."
Here's WPT's Here and Now with reporter Shawn Johnson playing back a few clips from Republican Rep. Dan Knudson and a fed up Sen. Jon Erpenbach:



And yet the changes to open records appeared similar to what many in the media have seen out of Scott Walker's office, to keep his information secret:
Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s office declined to say whether the governor himself was behind the original measure.

A review by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism shows similarities between recent records request denials from the governor’s office and the state Department of Administration and changes inserted in the budget Thursday by Republican leaders — similarities that raise questions about whether Walker himself was involved in the budget proposal.

The Center also found Walker and DOA invoked a deliberative process argument in denying requests for records documenting the proposed removal of the Wisconsin Idea and the “search for truth” from the University of Wisconsin’s mission statement. Two parties that sued Walker for records over that issue say they detect the governor’s fingerprints in the proposal.

Christa Westerberg, vice president of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, noted similarities between Walker’s invocation of a deliberative process exemption in recent months and the proposal in the “Motion 999” amendment to the state budget passed Thursday. “When the administration attempted this exemption this spring, it was really an unprecedented attempt to conceal decision making documents about important issues in the budget. “It’s fair to ask, did the governor request this language in Motion 999? And if so, why?”

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