Gov. Scott Walker’s office was a key player in drafting legislation that would have exempted from public scrutiny government materials considered part of a “deliberative process,” newly released documents suggest.
Walker’s staff worked on the language that would have amended the state’s open records law through the office of Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, according to an email released to the State Journal through an open records request to Vos.
In a June 15 email to Vos aide Andrew Hanus with the subject line “Governor’s request,” Michael Gallagher of the Legislative Reference Bureau wrote:
“In the interest of expediency, I am going to enter this as a Speaker Vos request and copy David Rabe from the Governor’s office on it. I just talked to David. He is fine with proceeding that way. Let me know if you want to do it differently. It should go out tomorrow morning.”
The next morning the LRB’s legal department emailed draft legislative language that would have exempted drafts and notes, personal property and a series of other materials from being public records.
The draft language also would have exempted from disclosure “deliberative process” materials, which would have included communications such as opinions, analyses, briefings, recommendations, suggestions, drafts, correspondence about drafts or materials related to the drafting of a legislative proposal.
Earlier documents released to the State Journal from Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald’s office show that, as of June 15, the draft language included exemptions for lawmakers’ communication and drafting files but did not include the provisions about deliberative materials.
Even though it currently is not a part of the record law, Walker’s office is citing “deliberative process” to deny records to requesters, including the State Journal. The Progressive magazine and the Center for Media and Democracy are suing Walker over such denials.
When asked on Tuesday if Walker requested the deliberative materials exemption, Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick referred to a statement released by the office on June 7, which said the governor’s staff “provided input” after legislative leaders let them know they were interested in making changes to the open records law.
“Our intent with these changes was to encourage a deliberative process with state agencies in developing policy and legislation,” Patrick wrote.
The State Journal reported last week that Vos was named as the draft requester for the proposed open records changes.
Vos and Fitzgerald have said the measures were a collaborative effort, and each office was aware and approved of each proposal included.
Lawmakers removed the measures from the state budget before approving it amid massive public outcry.