Thursday, June 20th, 2019

Joint Statement from the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty and the MacIver Institute on the proposed change to the state’s Open Records Law

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WILL and MacIver Institute Statement on JFC changes to open records law:

Proposed Changes to Wisconsin’s Open Records Law Hinder Public Access, Scrutiny of Government
Changes made to transparency inappropriately made with little transparency

Milwaukee and Madison, WI – July 3, 2015 – The John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy and the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty release the following joint statement in reaction to sweeping changes proposed by the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee to the state’s open records laws.

“The language of the motion is incredibly broad, giving legislators a near-blanket exemption from the Open Records Law,” said Tom Kamenick, open government expert at WILL. “The new deliberative process exemption would be just as bad, allowing the government at all levels to hide the decision-making process from public oversight.”

The John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy, represented by the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, successfully sued to force current State Senator Jon Erpenbach to turn over records he wrongly asserted were privileged communications.

MacIver Institute President Brett Healy continued, “Transparency in government is not a liberal or conservative issue, it is a good government issue. Taxpayers deserve access to government records, so they can keep politicians all across this great state honest and accountable. Therefore, it is frustrating that legislative Republicans, on the night before a holiday weekend, have taken steps to substantially weaken the ability of their constituents to gain access to crucial documents. As an organization that produces original news content, we employ the open records statutes to shed light on the machinations of government. Weakening those laws weakens the ability of citizens to see what their elected officials are doing.”

Upon questioning from legislators on the Joint Finance Committee, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau confirmed that these exemptions would apply to all elected officials, not just the Legislature.

WILL President Rick Esenberg said, “I understand that transparency laws can be burdensome and policymakers would prefer to be free of nagging public scrutiny. It may even be that some improvements to the law are in order. But when you are spending tax dollars, transparency is the price you pay. The public has a right to know and this proposal guts it.”
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