Local Governments Object to State Archives Legislation on Records Management

MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp testified in opposition to legislation (SB 44) that would impose both unmanageable records management requirements and unintended consequences on local governments before the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee on February 8, 2017. The bill was sponsored by the Maryland State Archives (MSA).

SB 44 requires each unit of state and local government to offer for transfer to the MSA electronic records that the unit has determined are no longer needed for the transaction of business. Governmental units must also create and maintain an inventory of both electronic and non-electronic record files. Finally, the bill requires each unit of government to designate a “records officer” to serve as a contact point for the MSA).

While local governments must already have a records retention, disposal, and archival policies in place, including for electronic records, the bill’s provisions create impractical and sometimes contradictory requirements on local governments. The bill provisions also did not seem parallel the intent of MSA,  based on the testimony of State Archivist Tim Baker. From MACo’s testimony:

MACo appreciates the desire to update records retention, disposal, and archival policies to include electronic records. However, MACo is concerned that the bill will impose potentially significant implementation and technical issues regarding the capture, retention, organizing, and transmission of electronic data. Extracting electronic data from computer systems, proprietary databases, and mobile devices in a readable and accessible format will likely prove challenging.

The bill also seems to include metadata, which is not subject to disclosure under the Maryland Public Information Act, and handling this data could create additional legal and technical challenges. Finally, the bill would require a legal review of government software contracts to determine what information is a governmental record subject to MSA requirements.

MSA testified in support of the bill. Knapp was joined by Baltimore City Chief Solicitor Hilary Ruley and Hyattsville Clerk and Maryland Municipal Clerks Administration Representative Laura Reams in opposition to the bill. Ruley raised the concern that the bill placed local governments in a section of the Code reserved for State agencies, creating unintended consequences. Reams discussed implementation concerns.

MACo, the Maryland Municipal League, and MSA will meet soon to see  if SB 44 can be amended to address local government concerns.

Useful Links

SB 44 of 2017

MACo Testimony on SB 44

Maryland State Archives Website

MACo Bill Tracking Tool