PROVIDENCE, RI – Today Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea testified before the House State Government and Elections Committee in support of House bills 5944 and 5998, introduced on behalf of her office by Representative Mia Ackerman and Representative Jose Batista, respectively.
The bills would help guarantee public access to records at all levels of government in Rhode Island by updating statutes that govern the Rhode Island State Archives & Public Records Administration, which Secretary Gorbea oversees.
Specifically, the bills would modernize the proper management, retention, care, and disposal of public records in Rhode Island. These processes are essential to ensuring that public records are accessible when requested. The Public Records Administration within the State Archives is responsible for the oversight of this function across state and local government.
"It is vital that we modernize our systems so that Rhode Islanders can hold their government accountable," said Secretary Gorbea. "These public records laws have not been updated since the 1980s, but our methods of communicating and generating public documents have evolved tremendously in that time."
House Bill 5998, the Revised Public Records Act, updates a law written in 1981 and strengthens access to public documents by requiring state agencies to establish designated Records Officers. It also clarifies the record retention schedule process and establishes safeguards against unlawful record destruction. Under Secretary Gorbea's bill, entities that illegally dispose of records could be brought to court.
"Public records should be quickly and easily available in this day and age," said Steven Brown, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island. "These public records laws haven't been touched in decades and are in need of an update. I support Secretary Gorbea's effort to amend these laws and help make government more transparent."
House Bill 5994 would modernize the State Archives and Historical Records Act, which was enacted in 1989 and has not been substantively updated since. The Act governs the administration and preservation of our state's documents and historical records. Secretary Gorbea's bill would update the statute to ensure the law is reflective of the work being done today to preserve our historical records and documents.
Secretary Gorbea is working to have both bills introduced in the Senate in the near future.