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Walker says he'll change government records exemptionsSubmitted: 07/03/2015

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MADISON - State lawmakers will get to keep many records secret under a proposal voted into the state budget Thursday night by Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee.

The rule gives legislators the power not to release any of their communication with staffers or other legislators.

That information is for things like research, discussions and amendments to legislative proposals.

Opponents on the budget committee like Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) on the budget committee believe this shuts the door on voters and even interest groups.

"The whole point is they have a right to do that. They have a right to do it. And who the hell are we to say, not anymore," Erpenbach said.

Rep. Dean Knudson (R-Hudson) said the proposal adds clarity to current law. He said it can be difficult, right now, to decide what should or shouldn't be an open record.

"I think that this serves to clarify and make it easier for us all to stay on the right side of the law and the rules," Knudson said.

However it isn't only Democrats criticizing the open records changes. Sen. Rob Cowles (R-Green Bay) said today he won't vote for the budget with this open records change.

"I was shocked and appalled to see the attack on open and transparent government last night by the Joint Committee on Finance," Cowles said in a statement. "Limiting public access to legislative communications and records is against all I have stood for while in office."

That could make it even more difficult for the Senate Majority leader to round up enough yes votes for the budget.

Erpenbach said this would be a vote budget committee Republicans would regret.

"I don't care what the issue is, I don't care what's coming up in the future," Erpenbach said. "This by far and away will be the vote when you are 90 years old, you'll be going damn, I wish I had that on back."

A spokeswoman for Gov. Scott Walker says he will work with Republican leaders in both chambers to change budget provisions to the state's open records law.

Spokeswoman Laurel Patrick said in a statement Friday that Walker would work with leaders before the measure went to the full Legislature. She didn't immediately specify what changes would be made

The full Legislature and Walker must sign off on the measure before it becomes law.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Story By: Adam Fox

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