The House today refused to concur in Senate amendments to HB 155a, Rep. Linden Bateman’s bill to increase fines for violations of the open meeting law – but that was just because of a drafting error in the amendments, and a new version of the bill already has been introduced. The House Ways & Means Committee voted unanimously just now to introduce the new version, which would do the same thing as HB 155: Increase fines for open meeting violations from $50 to $250; increase fines for knowing violations from $500 to $1,500; and increase fines for repeated knowing violations from $500 to $2,500.
“It’s unbelievable that I’m having to do this,” Bateman told the Ways & Means Committee. “It’s a clean bill.”
The problem came when the Senate amended the bill to clarify the repeated violation section, and also added in changes to reflect two other bills that already have passed, recodifying the Open Meeting Law into a new code section on “Transparent and Ethical Government” and removing an open meeting law exemption for labor negotiations.
House State Affairs Chairman Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, told the House this morning, “The second time they amended it, they actually repealed a portion of the Open Meeting Law. That was not the intention.”
The new bill is being fast-tracked from Ways & Means to the full House; it still must again pass the House and Senate before going to the governor.