Gov. Scott Walker announced over the weekend that Republicans were abandoning their plan to create new exceptions to the state’s open records law, but for months the all-but-certain presidential candidate has been operating as if one exemption already was in place. Two months ago, Walker declined to release records related to his proposal to rewrite the University of Wisconsin System’s mission statement and erase the Wisconsin Idea from state law. He argued he didn’t have to provide those records to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and others because they were part of his office’s internal deliberations. The Progressive magazine and the liberal Center for Media and Democracy sued Walker over those denials. The cases have been combined, and the litigation is pending in Dane County Circuit Court.
On Thursday, Republicans on the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee abruptly introduced and passed new exemptions to the open records law — including a broad provision that would explicitly create an exception for “deliberative materials.” Such an exception would make it impossible for the public to see how state, local and school officials made their decisions.
It also would have made a host of records from lawmakers’ offices inaccessible to the public.
The public reaction was swift, with groups on the left and right decrying the attempt to stifle the public’s access to government records. By Saturday, Walker and legislative leaders announced they were abandoning the plan, while continuing to evade saying who pushed for the idea in the first place.
Full Article: Walker office already acts as if records exemption is law.