Oregon has a well-earned reputation for keeping many records public. But, even as a second- or third-tier issue in this legislative session, public records issues are causing some controversy.
Here are some examples:
- Senate Bill 41: Attorney General John Kroger has used this bill to recommend a wholesale change in Oregon's public records laws, which are spread throughout statute books. He wants to centralize records laws under the overall public records law, ORS 192.500 and, in the process, get rid of about 100 current exemptions. He also wants to limit what state and local governments can charge for researching record and making copies of them. Therein lies the controversy.
- Senate Bill 346: Senate Judiciary Committee members, over objections from the broadcast and newspaper industries, are toying with barring media access to tapes of the 911 Emergency Call System. The chief advocate for the bill, City of Portland Commissioner Amanda Fritz, contends that voices on 911 tapes belong to the caller and should not be subject to media review. Broadcast and newspaper managers, on the other hand, are opposing government intervention in the news business and insist they are able to make decisions on when to air 911 tapes, making the balancing decisions required between the public's right to know and personal privacy.