It’s often said that state legislatures are the laboratories of democracy, but here’s hoping this idea stays in the Mad Scientist lab.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that a state lawmaker has filed a bill in the Virginia General Assembly that would exempt the names of public employees in any type of payroll data.
Senate Bill 812 was filed by Sen. Stephen Martin, a Republican from Chesterfield, Va. From the newspaper’s story:
“In my judgment, it’s not necessary for the public to know who makes exactly what,” Martin said by phone Tuesday.
Martin said the bill was introduced in response to a state salary database that the Richmond Times-Dispatch published online in October. The database included the names of employees earning above the average salary of $50,298.
“Constituents of mine that were concerned about it asked me to introduce this legislation,” said Martin, adding that “they were probably state employees or family of state employees.”
Martin’s bill would allow only the salary and job title to be provided in any payroll information on state employees or elected officials:
Virginia Freedom of Information Act; access to salary information, etc., of public employees.
Allows public access to the records of only the job position, official salary, or rate of pay of, and the allowances or reimbursements for expenses paid to, any officer, official, or employee of a public body. The bill specifically excludes the name of any such officer, official, or employee from disclosure.
Here in Oklahoma, we’ve been involved in trying to keep access to certain information about state employees. But at least nobody has proposed anything like Martin’s bill. At least not yet.
And just FYI, you can search the state payroll at the state’s Open Books site. Unfortunately, the state site includes just last name and first and middle initial. It doesn’t have job titles.
For almost 20 years, we’ve gotten monthly downloads of state employee payroll data from the Office of State Finance under a continuous open-records request. The data in the last few years has included first and middle names, as well as job titles and whether the employee is covered under the state’s merit protection system. That kind of information was invaluable when we looked at pay raises in some departments last month:
- Pay raises come for some at Oklahoma’s state agencies
- Almost half of Agriculture Department employees receive raises
Written by Paul Monies