The Legislative session ended March 9th and as has been the case every year since its enactment in 1992, the state has a new iteration of the Government Records Access and Management Act (GRAMA). On the side of more sunshine, the definition of a governmental entity is expanded to include a governmental non-profit corporation (House Bill 55). Affected non-profit corporations are those that are wholly controlled by one or more governmental entities or those in which governmental entities exercise a controlling interest. Municipally controlled library foundations, arts councils, or building foundations are examples of non-profit corporations. The definition of a governmental entity is also expanded to include public school membership associations (House Bill 413). A public school membership association is an organization that governs or regulates a student’s participation in athletic interscholastic activity. Inclusions of these entities in the definition of a governmental entity clarifies that they are subject to GRAMA, and that their records are subject to request.
On the last day of the session, the Legislature passed a bill that specifically amends GRAMA (Senate Bill 242). The primary update is the provision that governmental entities are not required to provide records or respond to a records request from an individual who is incarcerated following his/her conviction. The provision extends to requests from anyone requesting on behalf of a convicted and incarcerated individual. However, the provision does not apply to the first five requests made during each calendar year when the requested record makes specific reference to the incarcerated individual. Nor does it apply to requests made by an attorney on behalf of an incarcerated individual. This legislation attempts to curtail abuse of the process of obtaining government records, while still affording incarcerated individuals with an avenue to obtain records relevant to their personal rights. It is noted that while governmental entities are not required to respond, they still have the option to do so. The new law does not curtail incarcerated individuals’ right to appeal government’s denial or failure to respond.
Senate Bill 242 also makes adjustments or clarifications to the appeals process as follows: 1) The time allowed for a chief administrative officer to respond to an appeal is extended from five to ten days, with the exception that the response should be in five days if the requester or interested party demonstrates that an expedited decision benefits the public; 2) once an appeal has been made to the district court, it cannot be remanded back to the State Records Committee; and 3) citizen members of a local appeals board cannot also be government employees.
Other legislation impacted GRAMA. House Bill 149 added to the list of private records information about an offender who is required to be on the Child Abuse Offender Registry but that is not required to be posted on that registry.
The Legislature made two additions to the list of protected records. Records related to the search process for a president of an institution of higher education are protected, except not an application for a publicly announced finalist (Senate Bill 238). Body-worn camera images or recordings taken inside a hospital or health care facility are protected to the extent that they do not include images of an alleged crime, critical incident, or certain other activities involving law enforcement.
All iterations of GRAMA since 1992 are posted on the State Archives website.