Senate tweaks disability bill to preserve records access
Amendment narrows conditions for public records exemption
AFTER ADVOCATES FOR people with disabilities raised concerns about a proposal to broaden a public records exemption related to abuse investigations, which was included in a bill voted on Thursday in the state Senate, senators appear to have resolved those concerns.
CommonWealth reported that a bill focused on disability-related terminology also included a provision limiting the extent to which files maintained by the state’s Disabled Persons Protection Commission would be considered public records.
Although the DPPC said the language was simply codifying current practice to redact confidential and personally identifiable information, some advocates worried that the change could give the commission more authority to withhold information about abuse investigations by simply deciding to deem a document “confidential.”
The Senate adopted the bill unanimously on Thursday. Before voting, they accepted an amendment introduced by Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr narrowing the exemption. Under Tarr’s language, the bill only exempts from the public records law information held by the DPPC “that is confidential or personally identifiable information pursuant to federal or state law.”
Anna Baglaneas Eves, a parent advocate from Rockport who raised concerns about the bill, said with Tarr’s amendment, “I am reasonably optimistic that once this law comes into effect that we will still have the access we had before.”The bill now moves to the House for consideration.