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Murphy’s Law — Your MDDC Update from Executive Director Jack Murphy for March 21, 2013

By Jack Murphy

The public notice changes we have been fighting are dead for this session of the General Assembly, but the issue has been listed for summer study, which means we could be facing the same problems next year.
The crossfiled bills, HB 1136 and SB 523, both died in committee. They would have allowed counties and cities to post all of their public notices on their own websites rather than advertise them in newspapers.
SB 523 was withdrawn by the sponsor, Sen. Young, rather than let the Education Health and Environmental Affairs committee vote it down. The house bill was rejected by Environmental Matters, but was recommended for further study during the interim between the sessions. That means the sponsor, Del. Waldstreicher, and the committee could put together a working group to rewrite the bill. We will keep an eye on them.
During public hearings, the sponsors were both told by some committee members that the issue was being raised too soon, and that they should wait two to five years to start moving the notices out of newspapers. The general mood at the committee was that they would approve the change at some point, but not yet.
SB 845, which would require governments to keep confidential the email addresses of people who communicate with public officials, has been approved in committee and is heading for Senate approval. We opposed in committee and will work again to stop the bill in the House. We are arguing that correspondence to and from government officials has always been public record, including the names and addresses of the correspondents, and the email address is just another identifier. The bill likely will be going to House Health and Government Operations Committee.
SB 229, which would have made expungement of juvenile court records easier, was defeated in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The House crossfile, HB 282, passed in the House. It is not likely that the Senate Committee would resurrect a bill it has already defeated, but we will continue to watch.
As I previously reported, our objections to the provision of the governor’s firearms bill that would keep permits confidential were not taken up by the Senate committee, and the bill is expected to become law. Two other bills, aimed at the firearm records, HB 961 and HB 90, were heard this week and we submitted opposition testimony. Neither is expected to move, since the governor’s bill covers some of the same ground.

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