A legislative committee killed two open government bills Wednesday and gutted another, dealing a setback to a slate of reforms supported by Gov. Dennis Daugaard and Attorney General Marty Jackley.
The House State Affairs Committee unanimously killed House Bill 1109, which would have made mug shots and police logs open records. The governor, attorney general and media groups supported that, saying most states release that information and that there’s no compelling reason to keep it secret.
But opponents said releasing mug shots could harm people who’ve been arrested but not yet convicted of a crime.
The committee agreed unanimously and killed the bill.
Another bill, House Bill 1108, was amended to remove the point of the bill.
As written, HB 1108 extended open meeting law to apply to advisory agencies and committees. It was aimed at a new practice among some local governments to appoint advisory bodies that can gather information and debate issues in private, then produce a recommendation that’s adopted by the public board.
Critics representing electric and utility cooperatives argued the language was too broad, and could make their meetings public because they hold the power of eminent domain.
An amendment by Rep. Brian Gosch, R-Rapid City, removed the language extending open meetings laws to advisory boards.
Remaining is some language cleanup and a clause exempting these advisory boards from a teleconference provision.
Rep. Bernie Hunhoff, D-Yankton, said that essentially killed the bill. But he supported the amendment, reasoning it would keep the bill alive to allow for a compromise later in the legislative session.
After the amendment passed without dissent, the committee approved the gutted HB 1108 unanimously.
A third bill, House Bill 1111, was narrowly defeated. It would have made pardon information public. Current law makes that information public for five years, then closes it.
Supporters said there’s no point in making that information private given that it remains readily available on the Internet. Opponents said the state should eventually give people who’ve been pardoned a chance at a fresh slate.
The committee killed the bill on a 7-6 vote.
One open government reform did pass Wednesday. House Bill 1110, which requires governments to tell the public what kind of information is included in databases, passed unanimously.
Supporters said that bill will help members of the public figure out what information is available so they can shape their requests for that information, saving time for both the public and the government.
All four bills came out of an open government task force convened by Daugaard and Jackley, containing members of the public, the media and the government.
A fifth bill, giving more leeway to some small governmental bodies, passed 9-4 and moves to the full House.
Three more bills produced by the open government commission are still awaiting hearings.
Tony Venhuizen, a senior aide to Gov. Dennis Daugaard, testifies in favor of open government bills as Reps. David Lust and Justin Cronin watch on Wednesday, Jan. 23.