Testifying Before The GAE Committee On Sandy Hook FOI LegislationPosted: March 12, 2014
On Monday I had the honor of testifying before the Government Administration and Elections Committee of the General Assembly concerning proposed legislation that would restrict public access to 911 calls, certain crime scene photographs and witness information. The legislation seeks to implement recommendations of the Task Force on Victim Privacy and the Public’s Right to Know. The legislature created the task force in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy when a false rumor by someone on FOX News gave rise to fears that documentary film maker Michael Moore was going to obtain copies of crime scene photos of the deceased children and then publish them.
The theme of my testimony was that the proposed legislation was a “solution in search of a problem.” The simple fact is that there is no evidence that the Freedom of Information Act has ever been used to obtain graphic crime scene photographs of homicides, which were then widely distributed by the media or over the Internet. Absence any evidence of a problem, we should not be adding categorical exemptions to the FOIA which make it harder for the public to obtain government documents which, after all, are really the public’s documents. (Click here for a link to CT-N’s coverage. My testimony starts at 4:40:00 into the hearing. Click here for my written testimony.)
The GAE committee heard testimony from many people with positions on both sides of the issue. I was impressed by the thoughtfulness of the questions various legislators raised during the hearings. The public hearing represented the kind of calm, thoughtful, deliberative, fact-finding process that I wish had occurred during the last legislative session, before legislators passed Public Act 13-311 without any meaningful advance notice. That act seriously eroded longstanding public access rights under the state Freedom of Information Act.