Open Government Committee Considers Extending Electronic Records Bill

The Joint Committee on Transparency and Open Government met on November 24 to consider whether to extend the provisions electronic records provisions of SB 740 of 2011.  MACo and other stakeholder groups testified in support of the extension.

As previously reported on Conduit Street, SB 740 was a bill that updated provisions of Maryland’s Public Information Act (PIA) to better reflect the use of electronic records.  The bill requires record custodians to provide copies of an electronic public record that is in a searchable and analyzable format, subject to certain conditions.  The bill also authorizes a record holder to redact “metadata” (information embedded in an electronic document describing the document’s history, tracking, and document management information) and clarifies that the record holder may charge a reasonable fee for providing an electronic document similar to the fees charged for paper documents.  The bill had a sunset provision of September 30, 2013.  MACo supported the original bill.

Based on county feedback, MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp and Baltimore City Assistant Solicitor Hilary Ruley testified in support of extending the bill’s provisions without additional changes but also to periodically monitor the effects of the bill on local governments.  Ms. Ruley noted the additional workload that the bill could impose on local governments under certain circumstances and discussed Baltimore City’s PIA workloads.  MML testified and agreed with the MACo position.  The Maryland-Delaware-DC Press Association and a nonprofit research group testified in support of the extension but also proposed additional changes to the bill.  Ultimately, the Joint Committee did not take a position on whether to extend and possibly amend SB 740.

MML Testimony

MD/DC Press Association Testimony

The Joint Committee also received an overview of the PIA and briefly discussed legislation that would: (1) require state agencies to post proposed regulations on the agency’s website no later than 3 business days after the regulations were published in the Maryland Register; and (2) exempt the email addresses of recipients of informational newsletters sent by public officials from the PIA.  The Joint Committee did not take a formal position on either piece of legislation.

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