In the interests of public safety, there’s been legislation filed at the Capitol this year to ban texting while driving for commercial drivers. Whatever your personal feelings on that issue, the bill also makes some big changes to public records held by the Department of Public Safety.
The bill, HB 1797, includes the following language, with the changes to existing law underlined:
BE IT ENACTED BY THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF OKLAHOMA:
6 SECTION 1. AMENDATORY 47 O.S. 2001, Section 2-111,
as last amended by Section 3, Chapter 326, O.S.L. 2007 (47 O.S.
Supp. 2010, Section 2-111), is amended to read as follows:
Section 2-111. A. All records of the Department, other
than those declared by law to be confidential for the use of the
Department, shall be open to public inspection during office
hours; provided, no person shall be authorized to transcribe,
copy, photocopy, photograph, or otherwise duplicate any such
record upon inspection. The Commissioner shall provide any such
record to any authorized recipient upon request in accordance with
the Open Records Act and the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act,
Title 18 of the United States Code, Sections 2721 through 2725, if
applicable, and upon payment by the recipient of all required fees
associated with the record.
Essentially, those changes mean you could not go to the DPS and take notes from a record without buying a copy of it first. So much for the “try-before-you-buy” concept in sales. And what happens if you only want details from one page of a 200-page file? Will you be required to buy copies of all 200 pages before you write down a note or take a picture of a page on your smartphone about what’s in those public records? This strikes me as a terrible precedent to set, because public inspection of records should not be a profit center for government agencies.
The bill is on the calendar for consideration before the full House. It’s uncertain whether it will come up before Thursday’s deadline for bills getting out of the House or Senate. Still, similar language could appear in other bills later this session, so it’s worth watching.
UPDATE: HB 1797 passed the House late Wednesday by a vote of 95-3. You can watch Rep. Sue Tibbs, R-Tulsa, explain the bill here. She did not explain any of the changes to the DPS public records inspections contained in the bill. There was no debate or questions when it came up about 10:30 p.m.
Written by Paul Monies