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Will Espero "birther bill": might restrict government openness, increase costs (signed by Lingle)

During "Sunshine Week" in March - a celebration of access to government records - Hawaii state senator Will Espero introduced a "Birther bill" designed to restrict access to government records about the Obama citizenship issue. A few days ago, Linda Lingle signed it into law. You can get a copy of SB2937 by searching at capitol.hawaii.gov, and the meat of the new law is below.

The law is not necessary, won't save any government officials any time (and might even increase their workload), and is a step towards a less accountable government. And, it covers all relevant Hawaii government records, not just those related to the Obama issue. It also yet again illustrates the depth that the establishment (broadly defined) will go to silence those concerned about the Obama citizenship issue rather than admitting that Obama hasn't provided definitive proof that he was born in Hawaii (see the last link for the details).

Those officials receiving requests would have to do the same - or even more - work for each request. Not only would they need to read and research the request in order to determine that the response would be the same, they'd need to look through their records to determine that a similar request has come in and they've provided an answer within the past year.

Then, after doing all that work, they could ignore the request.

Now, does that make sense?

It would take the same amount or less time for them to simply respond to repeated requests with, for instance, a link to their FAQ about this issue. If they keep getting the same questions and keep supplying the same answers to each of those, then that's what a FAQ is for.

It isn't entirely clear to me whether the law only applies to subsequent request made by the same person, or all subsequent requests made by anyone. However, I urge anyone in Hawaii who cares about government transparency to try to challenge and find loopholes in the law and see if officials can be caught not fulfilling valid requests. Then, if possible, take those officials to court.

The main part of the law follows:

Except as provided in section 92F-13, each agency upon request by any person shall make government records available for inspection and copying during regular business hours; provided that an agency shall not be required to make government records available or respond to a person's subsequent duplicative request, if:
(1) After conducting a good faith review and comparison of the earlier request and the pending request, the agency finds that the pending request is duplicative or substantially similar in nature;
(2) The pending request has already been responded to within the past year; and
(3) The agency's response to the pending request would remain unchanged.

Sun, 05/16/2010 - 14:52 · Importance: 4