Wisconsin Republicans led by Gov. Scott Walker (R) swiftly reversed course over the holiday weekend and dropped a proposal that would have gutted Wisconsin’s open records law.
Tucked into a larger budget motion, the proposal, as reported by The Capital Times on Friday, would have removed a number of legislative materials and communications from the law’s auspices and would have allowed lawmakers to refuse to disclose certain documents.
As the backlash began to mount, Walker announced over the weekend that he and state lawmakers had agreed to remove the provisions changing state open record laws.
“We are steadfastly committed to open and accountable government,” Walker said in a statement Saturday that was cosigned by state GOP legislative leaders. “The intended policy goal of these changes was to provide a reasonable solution to protect constituents’ privacy and to encourage a deliberative process between elected officials and their staff in developing policy. It was never intended to inhibit transparent government in any way.”
The changes would have affected the types of documents tracking a bill’s legislative history that have been particularly useful for journalists and activists in the state. Conservatives and liberals alike decried the move as an effort to make Wisconsin less transparent and more vulnerable to corruption.
State Republicans have refused to disclose who inserted the language into the budget legislation, which was approved late Thursday evening. Before dropping the provisions entirely, the governor’s office said Friday it was considering changes to the proposals concerning public records law, but would not comment as to whether Walker was involved in the proposals in the first place.
The controversy comes just days before Walker is expected to announce his candidacy for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.