A bill by state Sen. Mike Michot to expand online public services for state agencies will head to committee today with amendments after the Louisiana Press Association raised concerns about potential consequences of the measure’s verbiage.
Senate Bill 213 was crafted to allow for state agencies to offer more online services, such as renewing licenses and other state business, says Michot, R-Lafayette.
But wording in the bill prompted lengthy discussions between media professionals in Acadiana and around the state because it appeared the bill was dealing with public records access. Local media outlets interpreted the bill as a means to expand online access to public records, with a clause that allowed for the governor’s division of administration to impose an unspecified fee for records access as a way to fund the online services.
The concern was that the bill would create a state electronic public records portal through a private company, which could in turn charge unreasonable fees to access the records and circumvent state public record fee laws because it's a private entity.
Media outlets in Arkansas have been fighting similar measures when clerks of court offices began hiring outside companies to transform records into an electronic database. The companies, in turn, are charging a much higher fee for the public to access the records.
Michot says although the intent was not to change public records fees or access in the state, he is planning to amend the wording to ease media concerns.
“The intent is to allow agencies and departments to set up internet access for public to access their services,” Michot says.