The sponsor of a bill requiring state high school athletic associations to follow open records laws says it is unlikely to get a vote in the state Senate on Tuesday — which may be the chamber’s final day of activity in 2016.
The bill had the support of open-records advocates who said it would require the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association to operate more transparently.
Two other proposals that open-records advocates flagged as problematic also appear unlikely to become law this session.
One would allow the wrongfully convicted to have their court records sealed; the other would allow autopsy reports to be withheld from public view.
This week is Sunshine Week, a national celebration of open government that runs through Saturday.
Forceful lobbying push
The bill subjecting high school athletic associations such as the WIAA to state public records and open meeting law requirements passed the Assembly last month.
But Matt Henkel, a spokesman for the bill’s Senate sponsor, Sen. Roger Roth, R-Appleton, said it has not received a Senate committee hearing and so is unlikely to get a vote in the full chamber.
Bill Lueders, president of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, said there are legitimate questions about the legality of exposing the association to open records laws.
But Lueders added the association applied a forceful lobbying push in recent weeks to halt the bill.
Gannett Wisconsin Media reported the association was opposing the bill with the aid of four lobbyists, arguing it would set a dangerous precedent for other nonprofits that work with public agencies.
Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, introduced the bill after the association drew national ridicule for an email to schools about its sportsmanship guidelines, which aim to discourage fans at high school sporting events from chants such as “Fundamentals,” “Airball,” “We can’t hear you,” and “Scoreboard.”
Nygren wrote that the guidelines suggest a “suppression of speech,” and that such policies and the bodies that issue them “deserve more oversight and scrutiny.”
The bill allowing the sealing of court records of the wrongfully convicted will not receive a Senate vote this session, according to Scott Kelly, a spokesman for its sponsor, Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine. The bill passed the Assembly last month.
The bill would make a host of changes for the wrongfully convicted, including increasing the monetary compensation to which they’re entitled. It also would permit them to demand their court records be sealed.
Freedom of information advocates objected to the latter change, saying it would prevent the public from learning what went wrong in such cases.
Kelly said the bill was halted by concerns about its cost and about criminals with both proper convictions and wrongful convictions who stood to receive additional compensation as a result of it.
The proposal to keep autopsy records confidential originally was tucked into a broader bill dealing with coroners and medical examiners. But it was removed from the bill just before it was passed in the state Assembly last month.
Lueders said many coroners already withhold parts of autopsy records by citing medical privacy concerns.