Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sunshine, Darkness, and Privacy: The Data Practice Subcommittee

At tomorrow night's Data Practices Subcommittee there will be several bills that will have an impact on the public right to know, but also to their privacy.  The proposals are very detailed and can have  major impacts in how the public relates and reacts to their government. It takes a lot of work by the Legislature and the Subcommittee exemplifies that by their dedication and expertise.

House File 2044
This bill will make public the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) electronic licensing data.  This data has been historically public until recent years.  Several years ago, DNR linked their licensing process to the Minnesota drivers license database.  The DNR process came under the drivers license law which made the data private.  DNR then went to electronic records and severed their relationship to the drivers license database, therefore they came to the Legislature a couple of years ago for permission.  The bill was on its way to make the records public again, but last minute "politics" made it private.  So here we are again.  I suggest that the data should become public.

House File 1784
This is a bill to correct a wrong which was done in the secrecy of the legislative process.  The passing of this bill will again bring public accountability to the IRRRB which was misdirected with legislation several years ago.  I have done a post on this at

House File 2701
The legislation proposed is very positive except for Section 1 of the bill and gets into the "meat" of policy affecting how far does the public have a right to know how its public money is being spent.  It also gives direction to the Department of Administration to help people understand the opinions that have been done by the AdMinn.

Section 1 of the bill which proposes a fee for "expedited" process for production of government data to a request flies in the face of the public ability to get access to their own government data to which they have already paid for.  Secondly, it sets up a "double standard" for people who have the money and people who do not have it.

I am not aware of any proposal or law in other states that do this with their general access provisions.  There are specifics, such as quick access to copies birth certificates or a new driver's license or replacement.

House File 2647
This bill came about because of the Burnsville Superintendent/Human Resources squabble and a $250,000 pay out.  The bill is a beginning, but I think there can be a more accountable and broader fix for this situation which represents the tip of the iceberg of these kind of situations that have permeated the local political subdivisions.  Huge amounts of public monies spent on making people go away and not to have the "public" know why is asinine and runs contrary to public scrutiny and accountability.

I suggest apply local political subdivisions to the "public official" section of the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act.  This is outlined in a post I did several days ago.

I encourage the public to go to the meeting and participate.  You will see people, lobbyists, and various interests that "pop out" of the woodwork to get their amendment added, but you will also see the commitment of a small group of legislators to a very important subject that has a huge impact on you and I and our role with our government.

MONDAY, March 12, 2012  -  6:15 PM
Meeting Time Note: *Time is subject to change based on Floor Session.
Data Practices Subcommittee
Room: Basement State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Peggy Scott
Agenda: HF2044 (Petersen) Natural resources department electronic licensing classifications repealed.
HF1784 (Anzelc) Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board regulated, and classification of loan or equity investment application data modified.
HF2701 (Holberg) Expedited data requests provided, subcontract filing with government entity required, and other miscellaneous changes made.
HF2668 (Holberg) Fiscal note unofficial data classified.
HF2647 (Myhra) Public data definition relating to agreements involving payment of public money clarified.
*Order of bills is subject to change.

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