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Last Chance in the Legislature for More Government Transparency

A May 30 press release from the Oregon Territory Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists warns that a bill that would affect government transparency is stuck in the House Rules Committee as the end of the Legislative session draws near. See the full release below.

SALEM -- The Oregon Territory Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists is alarmed that lawmakers could miss a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create lasting change for open government.

House Bill 2101, which would provide for extra analysis and notice of bills that affect government transparency, is still stuck in the House Rules Committee, with the July 10 end of the legislative session looming. The -18 amendment that would provide the guts of the bill has broad stakeholder support and would would set up a balanced, nonpartisan committee to update and simplify Oregon’s confusing thicket of more than 550 records-law exemptions.

“The overwhelming majority of Oregonians want their government to be open and accountable. There has been very little opposition to this bill, but it has not received a hearing,” said Shasta Kearns Moore, SPJ Oregon’s sunshine chair.

SPJ Oregon spearheaded the concept — supported by Gov. Kate Brown and Secretary of State Dennis Richardson — to add the creation of an Oregon Sunshine Committee to the bill. The concept is also supported by former Deputy Attorney General Pete Shepherd, the statewide transparency group Open Oregon, the ACLU of Oregon, Oregon State Public Interest Research Group (OSPIRG), the Oregon Environmental Council, the Portland NAACP and about 10 other nonprofit public interest groups.

The Sunshine Committee would give the public a seat at the table during exemption review as already happens in Washington, Virginia, New York, Maine and Tennessee.

House Bill 2101 would also create Open Government Impact Statements for bills moving through the legislature. This means, every bill that has the potential to close off public access to information would get a statement on the arguments for and against creating more secrecy.

“Oregon has an opportunity with this bill to make a huge leap forward for transparency in the state at negligible cost. We hope the legislature takes it,” Kearns Moore said.