Bill to open access to governors’ records advancesPIERRE — The public would eventually get access to a former governor’s daily calendar, memos and other internal records under legislation approved Wednesday that changes South Dakota’s open records law.
By: VERONICA ZARAGOVIA, The Associated Press
PIERRE — The public would eventually get access to a former governor’s daily calendar, memos and other internal records under legislation approved Wednesday that changes South Dakota’s open records law.
The Senate State Affairs Committee unanimously voted in favor of the bill requested by Gov. Dennis Daugaard. Under the plan, records of governors and lieutenant governors such as photos or texts of speeches, proclamations and task-force reports would be open to the public 10 years after the official leaves office or when he or she dies.
Certain items within governors’ records remain indefinitely closed under the 2009 Open Records Law signed by former Gov. Mike Rounds. Those include the governor’s daily calendar, correspondence received by the office, internal memos and emails.
But those documents would become public records if the bill becomes law.
The issue initially came up last summer when the governor’s office received requests to see records belonging to Rounds and former Gov. Bill Janklow, then came to the forefront when Janklow announced his cancer prognosis last fall, Daugaard spokesman Tony Venhuizen said. Janklow died last month.
When he announced his illness, Janklow explained his plans to move his documents and records to the University of South Dakota in Vermillion from the State Archives of the South Dakota State Historical Society in Pierre.
He wanted all of his records — from his personal, public and political life — to be kept in one place.
Venhuizen said the new legislation would be good for “preserving these records for history and ensuring there’s a system that everyone understands.”
If the bill becomes law, records would get transferred to a successor or the state archivist, unless another person gets designated, and the chosen party would transfer them to a museum, academic institution or other repository within South Dakota.
David Bordewyk, general manager of the South Dakota Newspaper Association, expressed his appreciation for the bill, which now goes to the full Senate for debate.
“This kind of legislation will prove very valuable down the road for educators, researchers, archivists to give direction as for being able to access some of these records in the future to provide that perspective of state government, governors and past governors,” Bordewyk said.