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Government Bodies Could Be Fined For Dragging Their Feet On Public Records

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Government bodies would have a financial incentive to respond to public records requests under a bill moving through the Oregon legislature.

Under existing Oregon law, local governments and state agencies have to provide public records within 15 days of being asked, with some exceptions. House Bill 2353 would allow Oregon’s attorney general, judges or district attorneys to levy a $200 fine on government bodies that don’t respond quickly enough.

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City of Eugene lobbyist Ethan Nelson says the city supports the concept of government transparency. But he says Eugene already invests a considerable amount of staff time dealing with the four-thousand or so public records requests that it receives each year. “We have a lot of people coming on in asking for records that they don’t really understand what the question (is) they’re asking for, and we need to spend a lot of time on that,” said Nelson.

The bill easily passed the House in April and is headed for a vote on the Senate floor, after the Senate Committee on Business and General Government approved it Tuesday morning.

Copyright 2019 KLCC

Chris Lehman has been reporting on Oregon issues since 2006. He joined the KLCC news department in December, 2018. Chris was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and graduated from Temple University with a degree in journalism. His public broadcasting career includes stops in Louisiana and Illinois. Chris has filed for national programs including “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.”