Make LORA Document Retention Policy Better for #SunshineWeek

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
News from Progress Michigan

March 11, 2019

Contact: Sam Inglot, 616-916-0574, sam@progressmichigan.org

Make LORA Document Retention Policy Better for #SunshineWeek

Proposed 30-day retention policy makes transparency a flash in the pan

LANSING — As the Michigan Legislature debates increased transparency during Sunshine Week, Progress Michigan is calling attention to a massive hole in the proposed Legislative Open Records Act, which would finally open the legislature to open records requests. One of the biggest problems with the LORA bill package is it only requires the legislature to retain public documents for a measly 30 days, which pales in comparison to other retention policies across the state.

Last week, Progress Michigan testified before the House Oversight Committee to highlight two major problems with the proposed LORA legislation:

  • First, there is a lack of judicial review, meaning there is no option for citizens whose FOIAs have been denied by LORA to challenge the denial in court.
  • Second, LORA has weak documents retention policies. Under current law, school boards, municipalities and state departments are required to keep documents for a period of time up to several years. Under LORA the legislature is only required to keep documents for 30 days, regardless of type of document.

“While we hope the legislature will take our concerns with judicial review seriously, we understand there are differing legal opinions on the subject that may take time to rectify. We believe at the very least the legislature needs to extend the retention policy in LORA to at least two years before passing the bills out of committee,” said Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan. “Across the state, retention policies for state agencies, local units of government, and school boards protect public records for years and we believe the legislature should be setting an example, not an exception. If that change is made, Progress Michigan is prepared to support passage of the bill package, while we continue to press for further FOIA reform including judicial review and other problem areas of current FOIA law.”

According to the Department of Technology, Management and Budget, there are stringent document retention policies for counties, villages and cities, townships, public school districts, and public colleges and universities. These policies protect public records for years and allow citizens to take a look back to see how government has been working for them. If these same types of documents in the legislature are allowed to be thrown out after only 30 days, an important accountability tool will be lost forever.

“Preserving public documents are a vital part of transparency because the paper trail they leave create a blueprint for how our government operates and help citizens hold their elected officials accountable,” Scott said. “The proposed 30-day policy that would apply to the legislature is nothing but a flash in the pan as far as the lifetime of public records go and needs to be extended to multiple years. We have a chance for real reform right now and it’s important that we don’t leave massive transparency holes like this in the legislation.”

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