With Governor Chafee signing S2655Aaa/H7555Aaa (Senator James C, Sheehan and Representative Michael J. Marcello) into law, Attorney General Peter Kilmartin hailed the changes to the state's Access to Public Records Act (APRA) as a significant win for the citizens of Rhode Island and government transparency.
"All Rhode Islanders share the common goal that government be open and accessible to the public. The reforms to APRA achieve this goal and usher in a new era of transparency and accountability for government in Rhode Island," said Kilmartin. "Democracy is built on the principle of transparent, open and accessible government, which is the key to maintaining the public's trust of its elected officials. Government must be accountable to the people. The public has the right to know how government officials spend taxpayer dollars and make the decisions affecting their lives."
The legislation, submitted in the Senate on behalf of the Attorney General, significantly alters the individually identifiable exemption of the current statute, makes more information public, provides that all public pension records are public records, provides greater protections for those requesting records and increases fines for public bodies that knowingly and willfully violate the law.
With the bill signed into law, Attorney General Kilmartin also announced his Open Government Summit, which will feature an overview and discussion of the APRA changes.
"It is our Office's hope that the Summit will lead to a wider understanding of open government laws, especially the recent changes to APRA. When implemented in September, it will be key for elected officials, public employees and the general public to have an understanding of these changes. I am confident that the thoughtful discussion and debate at this year's Summit will strengthen that knowledge," concluded Kilmartin.
The 14th annual Open Government Summit, which is free and open to the public, is scheduled for July 27, 2012, 9:00 a.m. -12:30 p.m.at Roger Williams University School of Law, and designed to educate and inform public officials and the public about the state's Open Meetings Act (OMA) and the APRA. An agenda for the event is available on the Attorney General's website at www.riag.ri.gov.
The session will commence with remarks by Attorney General Kilmartin. Following, Assistant Attorney General Michael W. Field, chief of the Open Government Unit, and Special Assistant Attorney General Lisa Pinsonneault will give a presentation explaining the statutory requirements of APRA and OMA. The presentation will include a 2011/2012 case law and legislative update and examples of frequent trouble areas. The summit will close with a panel discussion on "Open Government Requirements and Obligations" and a Q&A session.
This year's summit will be held in the wake of the newly-passed APRA amendments. In addition to increasing access to more records, the new APRA will hold public bodies more accountable for producing records. Coming into law September 1st, the changes will require public officials to certify annually to the Attorney General that they have received APRA training. Discussion of APRA at the summit will explore and explain these new laws and will help attendees better understand the new statutory requirements.
Individuals who would like to attend the Open Government Summit at Roger Williams University School of Law need to register with the Office of Attorney General. To register please call 274-4400, ext. 2101, or email email@example.com.
Individuals may submit questions in advance that will be answered during the Q&A portion of the Summit at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in takes place from 8:30 a.m. - 9:00 a.m.