Thursday, June 28, 2007

Court rules bill draft not subject to open records law

Allowing lawmakers to keep bill drafts from public view is at "the very core of the legislature's essential role in government," a Dane County judge ruled Wednesday.

Judge David Flanagan wrote in his ruling that legislative proposals prior to introduction are drafts under state statute and not subject to Wisconsin's Open Records Law.

Then-Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager sued state Rep. Scott Gunderson, R-Waterford, and then-state Sen. Dave Zien, R-Eau Claire, after they initially withheld drafts of concealed carry legislation that had been shared with organizations who supported the proposal. Flanagan rejected that argument.

He ruled that the suit against Zien was moot because his office turned over the entire Legislative Reference Bureau file to Lautenschlager on May 3, 2006, and ruled in favor of Gunderson on the merits.

Gunderson said the suit was "imperative in order to protect the institutional integrity of the Legislature both for today and for the future.”

“This ruling reinforces exactly what Senator Zien and I have said from the very beginning; the document that former Attorney General Lautenschlager was attempting to acquire was a draft, and not subject to an open records request,” Gunderson said.

Lautenschlager, who is now in private practice in Madison, called the decision "an assault on the public record's law."

"Public records should belong to the public," said Lautenschlager, who said she is reviewing possible avenues for appeal.

Zien lawyer Thomas Pyper said he was confident the decision would withstand any appeals.

"I guess we always thought this was an unprecedented attempt [by Lautenschlager] to change the rules of the proceeding of the Legislature," he said.

See the ruling:
http://www.wispolitics.com/1006/070627_Zien_decision.pdf

Read Gunderon's
http://www.wispolitics.com/index.iml?Article=99084

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