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By Amanda Eggert, Montana Free Press

CalendarSenate Bill 232 seeks to enact timely response to public records requests.

Most state agencies presented with public records requests will have clear deadlines for compliance if Senate Bill 232 clears the Legislature and the governor’s desk.

The likelihood of both of those things happening is looking good: SB 232 sponsor Sen. Janet Ellis, D-Helena, worked with Gov. Greg Gianforte to develop a record request framework that both parties could live with, and an amended version of the bill unanimously passed the Senate March 2.

During a Feb. 22 hearing before the Senate State Administration Committee, Ellis read Article 2, Section 9 of the Montana Constitution, which holds that “no person shall be deprived of the right to examine documents or to observe the deliberations of all public bodies or agencies of state government and its subdivisions, except in cases in which the demand of individual privacy clearly exceeds the merits of public disclosure.”

Ellis said that constitutional right to know is great, but absent clear deadlines in state law, there’s no consistency in its application. Some public information requests are fulfilled within a month, she said, while others can languish for a year.

“That’s why Senate Bill 232 was born,” Ellis said. “To give actual deadlines.”


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