Right to Know Advisory Committee Makes Progress on Transparency Laws

News from the Maine Senate Majority Office

Senator Barry Hobbins

For Immediate Release – Tuesday, March 18 2008
Contact: Senator Barry Hobbins (207) 287-1515, Michael Johnson (207) 287-1528

— Press Release —

Right to Know Advisory Committee Makes Progress on Transparency Laws

AUGUSTA -The chair of the Legislature’s Right to Know Advisory Committee, Senator Barry Hobbins, D-YorkCounty, said that the committee continues to meet and is making progress on two pieces of legislation hoping to improve Maine’s Freedom of Access laws.

The 16-member advisory committee serves as the central source and coordinator of information about Maine’s Freedom of Access laws and the people’s right to know. The Right to Know Committee’s mission is to provide assistance to the Judiciary Committee relating to proposed legislation affecting public access and the recommendations of the Advisory Committee for existing public records exceptions in Titles 1 through 9-B.

Commenting on the committee’s work, Senator Hobbins said, “Transparency in government is one of the foremost tenets our democracy is founded on, and the work this committee is doing is important to meeting those principles.”

Two bills that the Right to Know Committee are actively working on are LD 2198, An Act To Implement the Recommendations of the Right To Know Advisory Committee Concerning Training for Elected Officials, and LD 2212, An Act Concerning Public Records Exceptions.

The first bill, LD 2198, maintains the minimum requirements for training programs for elected officials contained under the Frequently Asked Questions heading on the State’s Freedom of Access law website. The bill, however, requires elected official to make a record of the completion of the training and either keep it or file it with the public entity to which that official was elected. In a work session by the Judiciary Committee that followed action on the bill by the Right to Know Committee, the committee voted to support the legislative proposal.

A second bill, LD 2212 is still be worked on by the Right to Know Committee and the Judiciary Committee. Under current law, personal contact information concerning public employees is not public record. This bill clarifies that the exception also applies to personal contact information of voluntary appointees serving in State Government positions without compensation by cross-referencing the definition of “employee” in the Maine Tort Claims Act. The bill also addresses a potential conflict with this exception and the law governing state employee personnel records to clarify that personal contact information of state employees and applicants for state employment is not a public record.

The Right to Know Advisory Committee was created as a permanent advisory council with oversight authority and responsibility for a broad range of activities relating to Maine’s Freedom of Access laws. The 16-members are appointed by the Governor, the Chief Justice, the Attorney General, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

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