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Friday, February 22, 2008

South Dakota Reform Fails...

A House committee Wednesday killed an open-records bill that would require the government to justify denying public access to documents.

The measure raises too many questions about how records dealing with personal information, public safety or other sensitive issues would be treated, some opponents said.

"I think they need to go back to the task force and work on a bill that they can agree on there, then bring it back," said Rep. Shantel Krebs, R-Sioux Falls, after the House's State Affairs Committee killed the bill 7-6.

Sen. Nancy Turbak Berry, D-Watertown, sponsored the bill. She said after the meeting that although the vote was close, she doubted she'd try to revive it this session.

"I will keep working on it and hammering at it," she said. "It isn't finished by any means."

She said opposition from Gov. Mike Rounds' office helped kill the bill.

"Whatever we'd try to change at this point would be nitpicked word by word," Turbak Berry said.

She served on a task force organized by Attorney General Larry Long that reviewed the status of government records in South Dakota. State law generally says records required by law to be kept are open. Numerous specific laws close different individual records or classes of records. But Long's review found that a vast number of records fall somewhere between those two areas. It also found that government officials have wide discretion to make decisions on whether to open or close records.

More here.

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