Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Rep. Randy Terrill tries again to stop public access to government workers' birth dates, employee identification numbers


Rep. Randy Terrill on Tuesday added language preventing public access to government workers' birth dates and employee identification numbers to the conference committee version of the Omnibus Corrections bill.

Under the Moore Republican's revised HB 3379, the state Open Records Act would be amended to include the following provisions:
D. The Department of Corrections shall keep confidential the home address, telephone numbers and, social security numbers, employee identification number and birth date of any person employed or formerly employed by the public body.

E. The provisions of subsection D of this section shall be applicable to all public bodies and to any request made pursuant to the provisions of the Oklahoma Open Records Act prior to the effective date of this act for which a public body has not provided a response as of the effective date of this act.
Media attorney Michael Minnis notes that paragraph E might violate the state Constitution's prohibition on ex post facto laws because it would apply to existing records requests.

The new language also might violate the state Constitution's ban on bills containing multiple subjects, Minnis said.

Terrill also added an emergency clause, meaning that the bill would take effect immediately after being signed by the governor.

However, the emergency clause requires a two-thirds vote of approval by the Legislature.

Last week, Terrill's restrictions on public access to the birth dates and employee identification numbers found in government workers' personnel files were added to a bill originally intended to open access to the dash cam videos of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

Approved by the Senate General Conference Committee on Appropriations, HB 3382 was sent to the House for consideration. But the bill has failed to make it to the floor.

The original bill on dates of birth had failed to make it out of the House by a deadline last month after Rep. Lucky Lamons, D-Tulsa, added an amendment requiring the state Legislature to follow the Open Records Act. Fellow lawmakers didn't want to vote on that issue.

If Terrill's latest attempt to circumvent the traditional legislative vetting process succeeds, the public would find it virtually impossible to determine if government employees have committed crimes, evaded paying taxes, filed for bankruptcy or made political contributions. The public also would find it virtually impossible to track workers across government jobs.


Joey Senat, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
OSU School of Journalism

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