Records released by a liberal advocacy group Tuesday show Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, continued to pursue controversial changes to the state’s open records law even after they were struck from the state’s budget.
The proposal would allow the legislature to set its own open records protocol and to make changes without holding a public hearing or consultation with the governor. It would also prevent any record that conflicts with a legislative rule or policy from becoming public.
On July 23, an aide to Vos requested a legislative draft for a bill that would exempt state legislators from key provisions of the state’s open records law, according to documents released by the Center for Media and Democracy,
A spokesperson for Vos said the request was a way to continue the discussion on the issue.
“Before the Speaker’s legal counsel left for a new position, he had the legislation drafted to include the items the Assembly wanted in the motion," Vos’s spokesperson Kit Beyer told the Wisconsin State Journal Tuesday. "We wanted it on record and to be transparent that there were only two changes that we wanted. It was done for future public discussions on the issue that will hopefully happen this session.”
Vos said at a press conference later Tuesday that he would not pursue the proposal this fall.
“We updated the open records draft to return it to the original intent of the legislation and put an end to the previous process,” Vos said in a statement Tuesday. “We are not changing the open records law; this was just another instance when a liberal media group wanted to bash Republicans without seeking the truth.”
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, and Joint Finance Committee Co-Chair John Nygren, R-Marinette, both said they were unaware that Vos was continuing to pursue the legislation, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
The request was submitted roughly three weeks after Vos promised to abandon any changes to the open records laws after a controversial provision was included in the final budget motion on Vos’ orders.
Under the earlier proposal, lawmakers would have been exempt from most provisions of the open records. The changes were struck from the budget after widespread public outcry from both liberal and conservative advocates.
The CMD said the most recent proposal shows that citizens need to be guarding against any changes that would make state government less transparent.
“Open government advocates need to be on the lookout for another sneak attack on the public records law,” Brendan Fischer, General Counsel for the CMD, said in a statement.