The battle continues

The AJC is reporting that members of the Legislature are being billed for records requests from the executive branch:

House Rules Chairman Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs) was shocked to find that he might have to pay more than $1,000 for e-mails he requested from the Office of Planning and Budget and other state agencies that discuss potential transfers of money in the state budget.

Perhaps Chairman Ehrhart’s request was broad, however if the Legislature doesn’t have the ability to conduct oversight of the operation of the government, who does?

And does the General Assembly not have subpoena powers like the US Congress? Does that only apply to committees? When they are in session?

H/T: Andre

Updated to add: Chairman Ehrhart chimed into the comments to say: “The other 5 agencies I requested the budget records from seemed to have no problems collecting the data I requested and were very cordial and helpful.” Something left out by AJC article.

25 comments

  1. Erick says:

    Wow. Just wow. That’s absolutely amazing that the Executive Branch would charge the Legislative Branch for records.

  2. Erick says:

    You know, were I Rep. Ehrhardt, in next year’s budget I’d dock the department an amount equal to the ORA Request bill.

  3. Bobby Kahn says:

    Maybe if Earl’s speaker and their pals would look at strengthening the open records act, not gutting it, this kind of think wouldn’t happen, to him or anyone else.

  4. Ben Marshall says:

    Georgia Code allows agencies to charge printing costs and time for retrival, if the request is big enough, for open records requests. They can do it, but it is still amazing they’ll do it to the legislature.

    Also, the legislature does not have subpeona power like Congress. The only person that has anything even close is Jill Chambers because she chairs MARTOC, which is a joint oversight committee.

  5. Chris says:

    the MARTA board is not a state government agency, correct? Its a multi-county agency created by the legislature (and thus presumably accountable to the legislature)?

  6. eehrhart says:

    The other 5 agencies I requested the budget records from seemed to have no problems collecting the data I requested and were very cordial and helpful.

    It seemed a reasonable request, for information regarding 117 million plus of the taxpayers money which was never investigated by either House or Senate committee. Just six weeks ago those same committees were told why and how the money was going to be spent, and overwhelmingly, bipartisanly the legislative bodies passed these requests. Now with 3 weeks to go in the fiscal year they want to move so much of your money with no oversight except by the unelected bureaucrats in OPB.

    It seems to smell of FISH just like other sections of the Governors budget.

    As for a line item in the budget next year….that is a certainty if the legislative branch is going to be forced to pay for public information about state expenditures. It will of course be subtracted from the executive branch budget.

    Note to guv: “You cant veto what is never put in”

    We should never be placed in the postion of this absurdity in the first place. One branch of government does not charge another, or should not.

    Perhaps OPB is trying to prop up the executive cash flow stream due to checks not being cashed at Revenue? They are now the Governors Kinkos branch office.

    I am receiving many offers of support from Democrat and Republican, Senator and House members to chip in and pay the Governor for the information on how state money is spent.

    My question is still “What do they have to hide” which would lead them to such obstructive behaviour

  7. Bobby Kahn says:

    Earl, now that you find yourself in the odd position of being on the right side of open government, you should take it a step further. Strengthen the Open Records/Open Meetings laws. That is, if the Speaker will let you. I’m in for $100.

  8. eehrhart says:

    Bobby,
    You know me well….I will take your hundred
    THANKS
    As for odd….POTS and KETTLES

  9. I had this same fight back in 2005 with GDOT. I had to get a decision from the Attorney General to force them to provide the information, without charge. It is part of our legislative duties and no government agency should be able to charge a legislator for information pertaining to their duties as a legislator. Earl, I would not pay it! You might want to give the AG a call.

  10. IndyInjun says:

    Such a SENSELESS battle it is, too!

    Charging legislators for email and document reproduction as they attempt to pursue their duties in serving the public is preposterous.

  11. Andre Walker says:

    In terms of open government, if an elected official can’t get an open records request filled, then what does it say about the ability of an ordinary citizen to get access to public records.

    I think the stars might be aligned because Bobby Kahn and Earl Ehrhart agree on an issue.

  12. Chris says:

    I’m waiting for Bill Simon to chime in, but if he agrees w/ Ehrhart, than I think its a clean sweep of PeachPundists against the Governor. That might be a first.

  13. Ben Marshall says:

    Chris, you’re correct about MARTA, which is why the legislature can have that scruitiny, but not so with state agencies.

    This is a pure example of the government misusing open records request requirements as an inhibitive tool against public scruitiny.

  14. jillchambers says:

    We will get the information on state spending so that the public, the press (including bloggers!), and the Legislators can see it all. The Guv’s veto of HB 91 might slow us down but it will not stop us.

    Who on PeachPundit would vote for a constitutional amendment to open up the Regent’s budget for closer examination rather than the “lump sum” appropriations provided to them currently?
    See Article VIII, Section IV, paragraph I(c):
    http://www.legis.ga.gov/legis/2007_08/house/downloads/2003_constitution.pdf

    Oh, and I am already working on a comprehensive update of the GORA! I talked about it briefly at a trial lawyers lunch today. Feel free to chime in with your own suggestions Bobby.

  15. Andre Walker says:

    Rep. Chambers,

    I have no problems with that kind of constitutional amendment.

    What would happen if we gave the General Assembly subpoena powers?

  16. Bobby Kahn says:

    Rep. Chambers-

    Put it in the Constitution. DuBose Porter has a Constitutional Amendment to do just that. Take the Constitutional Amendment, put your name on it, as well as Earl’s, and pass it. Maybe even the Speaker will sponsor it.

  17. jillchambers says:

    I have not used the power of a subpeona in MARTOC since the Transit Authority is generally willing to help me get the information we need. I do need the signature of both the Lt. Gov and the Speaker to request that the AG issue a subpoena on behalf of MARTOC. So it is not a simple process (nor should it be).

    HB 91 was written based on the reports that MARTA is required to provide to MARTOC. The Legislature unanimously agreed that this information should be required of all state agencies. (there was one “no” vote on the final conference committee report – the House and Senate versions of the bill passed unanimously in each chamber).

    btw, MARTOC can compel witnesses, too.

    If the Legislature passed a bill to give all committees the same power as MARTOC, that bill would probably be vetoed, too.

    there are other ways to skin a cat…..

  18. jillchambers says:

    thanks Bobby – maybe I’ll ask DuBose to sign my version!

    seriously, I will have the minority leader look at my version as we work on it later this year. I think the House is unified when it comes to the budget process and the Representatives all want to have access to the agency spending without having to use GORA.

  19. Bill Simon says:

    Open Records Act laws are Open Records Act laws FOR EVERYONE, not just the press and us citizen peons.

    To Ben Marshall’s “shock and aw-golly-gee” comment:…if the request is big enough, for open records requests. They can do it, but it is still amazing they’ll do it to the legislature.

    F*ck the esteemed “Legislature” that you hold so high and mighty, Ben. Do you want them to write a different set of laws so that they can have easier access to records the rest of us cannot?

    Well, you probably do…you and your idol, Lord King Earl of Ehrhart. One pea and one putz.

  20. Bill Simon says:

    Jill,

    If you’re going to start opening-up all government records, how’s about opening-up the office records of individual legislators, huh?

    How about applying the SAME LAWS to legislators that you and Earl want to apply to the Executive and Judiciary branches?

  21. ugavi says:

    Bill,
    How right you are. It would be a great idea for the legislators to have to live by the same open records laws that the Executive branch has to live by.

    Funny how no one mentioned that in the AJC, blogs or any where, but your comments.

Comments are closed.