Virginia Freedom of Information Act; disclosure of salaries of public employees. (SB202)

Introduced By

Sen. Richard Stuart (R-Westmoreland)

Progress

Introduced
Passed Committee
Passed House
Passed Senate
Signed by Governor
Became Law

Description

Virginia Freedom of Information Act; disclosure of salaries of public employees. Provides that public access to records of the official salaries or rates of pay of public employees whose annual rate of pay is the annual equivalent of twice the federal minimum wage or less is not required under FOIA. Currently, public access to salary information is required for public employees whose annual rate of pay is more than $10,000. The bill also provides that publicly available databases of public employees' salaries shall not include the name of any public officer, appointee, or employee. The bill contains a technical amendment. Read the Bill »

Outcome

Bill Has Failed

History

DateAction
01/05/2016Prefiled and ordered printed; offered 01/13/16 16100443D
01/05/2016Referred to Committee on General Laws and Technology
01/05/2016Assigned GL&T sub: #2
01/25/2016Impact statement from DPB (SB202)
02/08/2016Reported from General Laws and Technology (9-Y 4-N 2-A) (see vote tally)
02/10/2016Constitutional reading dispensed (40-Y 0-N) (see vote tally)
02/11/2016Read second time and engrossed
02/12/2016Read third time and passed Senate (27-Y 10-N 2-A) (see vote tally)
02/17/2016Placed on Calendar
02/17/2016Read first time
02/17/2016Referred to Committee on General Laws
02/17/2016Assigned GL sub: Subcommittee #2
02/25/2016Subcommittee recommends laying on the table
03/08/2016Left in General Laws

Video

This bill was discussed on the floor of the General Assembly. Below is all of the video that we have of that discussion, 1 clip in all, totaling 10 minutes.

Transcript

This is a transcript of the video clips in which this bill is discussed.

THE SENATOR FROM STAFFORD, SENATOR STUART.

Sen. Richard Stuart (R-Westmoreland): THANK YOU, MR. PRESIDENT. MOVE THE BILL PASS AND SPEAKING TO THAT MEASURE.

[Unknown]: THE SENATOR HAS THE FLOOR.

Sen. Richard Stuart (R-Westmoreland): MR. PRESIDENT, MEMBERS OF THE SENATE THIS IS SENATE BILL 202. WHAT THIS DOSE IS IT PROVIDES THAT A DATABASE WHICH CONTAINS ALL OF THE NAMES, SALARIES, AND POSITIONS OF STATE EMPLOYEES SHOULD NOT BE PUBLISHED. AND THE REASON FOR THIS IS IF YOU PUBLISH THIS INFORMATION PEOPLE CAN THEN GO ON AND GET IT ANONYMOUSLY. AND WHEN THEY GET IT ANONYMOUSLY, WE BELIEVE AND CERTAINLY THE DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN RESOURCES MANAGEMENT HAS REASON TO BELIEVE AS WAS THE TESTIMONY IN COMMITTEE THAT THEY ARE USING THAT TO COMMIT IDENTITY THEFT. IN FACT, THERE WERE ABOUT 1,500 CASES IN 2014 WHERE STATE EMPLOYEES' IDENTITY WAS STOLEN AND TAX RETURNS WERE STOLEN. THE PROBLEM IS IF YOU CAN ACCESS THIS INFORMATION ANONYMOUSLY, YOU DON'T KNOW WHO IS DOING IT SO YOU CAN'T CATCH THEM. SO IF YOU WANT THIS INFORMATION YOU CAN STILL GET IT, YOU JUST HAVE TO ASK FOR IT. YOU SEND A WRITTEN FOIA REQUEST OR GO IN THERE AND ASK FOR IF PERSONALLY AND THEN YOU KNOW WHO IS GETTING IT. IF YOU ACCESS IT BY VIRTUE OF THIS BIG DATABASE YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHO IS GETTING IT. IT DOESN'T EX-INCLUDE AT ALL, JUST REMOVES THE NAME AND YOU GET THE SALARY AND POSITION AND OTHER INFORMATION BUT TAKES AWAY THE NAME FROM THE DATABASE. AND MR. PRESIDENT, JUST TO BE VERY HONEST WITH EVERYBODY IN HERE, THE NEWSPAPERS ARE NOT GOING TO LIKE IT IF YOU VOTE FOR THIS BILL. I DON'T WANT YOU TO BE DISILLUSIONED. IT BOTHERS ME A LITTLE BIT BECAUSE WHAT THE NEWSPAPERS DO IS THEY GET THIS BIG DATABASE FROM THE STATE AND THEN THEY REPUBLISH THIS ONLINE. AND IT HELPS THEM GAIN SUBSCRIBERS TO THEIR NEWSPAPER TO SEARCH THAT INFORMATION. AND SO, THEY ARE VERY UNHAPPY WITH ME AND I SUSPECT IF YOU VOTE FOR THIS BILL THEY WILL BE VERY UNHAPPY WITH YOU. AND I WANT TO BE VERY HONEST ABOUT THAT. BUT I THINK WE HAVE AN OBLIGATION TO PROTECT OUR STATE EMPLOYEES FROM SUFFERING FROM IDENTITY THEFT. AND I THINK THIS IS A VERY SMALL MEASURE THAT WE CAN DO TO TRY TO HELP THEM IN THAT. WITH THAT, MR. PRESIDENT, I WOULD MOVE THE BELFAST.

[Unknown]: THANK YOU, SENATOR. THE SENATOR FROM FAIRFAX CITY, SENATOR PETERSON. THANK YOU, MR. PRESIDENT. I RISE FOR AN INTRODUCTION. THE SENATOR HAS THE FLOOR. MR. PRESIDENT, AND LADIES AND GENTLEMEN OF THE SENATE I ASK THAT YOU BE CAREFUL BEFORE YOU APPROVE THIS MEASURE FROM MY GOOD FRIEND. HERE IS WHY. EIGHT YEARS AGO WE REVOLUTIONIZED STATE GOVERNMENT AND MADE IT ACCESSIBLE TO ALL CITIZENS NOT JUST MEMBERS OF THE PRESS AND NOT JUST PEOPLE WITH KNOWLEDGE OF THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT. WE ALLOWED PEOPLE TO LOOK UP AND SEE HOW THEIR MONEY WAS BEING SPENT AND WHO THEIR MONEY WAS BEING SPENT ON AND IN FACT THE LEGISLATION THAT WE DID WAS CARRIED FROM THAT SIDE OF THE AISLE. I WAS A COPATRON. AND IN A LOT OF WAYS IT REVOLUTIONIZED STATE GOVERNMENT IN A GOOD WAY MAKING IT TRANSPARENT WHO MADE WHAT AND LET ME TELL YOU WHY THAT IS IMPORTANT. THERE IS A LOT OF INFORMATION OUT THERE UNTRUE ABOUT HOW MUCH MONEY WE MAKE AND WHO IS ON OUR PAYROLL. THE BEST DISINFECTANT TO THE UNTRUE INFORMATION IS GIVE PEOPLE ACCESS. IF THEY FIND OUT WE ARE MAKING $30,000 A YEAR, FINE, LET THEM KNOW. IF THEY FIND OUT THAT THE CITY MANAGER IS MAKING $200,000 A YEAR, FINE, THEY OUGHT TO KNOW THAT. I HAVE TO BE AMAZED IN THIS DAY AND AGE OF PEOPLE MAKING BIG SALARIES IN THE NFL AND NBA AND ENTERTAINMENT THAT PEOPLE OF IDENTITY THEFT ARE GOING TO FOCUS ON THESE PEOPLE MAKING 60, 70, 80 GRAND A YEAR, MID LEVEL MANAGEMENT. I THINK YOU FIND THAT THE LOSSES WE HAD ARE DIRECTLY ATTRIBUTABLE TO THE ANTHEM DATABASE HACK AND HAD NOTHING DO WITH FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT. I DON'T THINK PEOPLE LOOKING TO STEAL MONEY ARE GOING AFTER MID LEVEL STATE EMPLOYEES WHEN THEY WOULD GO AFTER THE PEOPLE THAT MAKE THE BIG MONEY. I THINK DOING THIS WE WILL TAKE A SIGNIFICANT STEP BACK FROM TRANSPARENCY AND A WAY THAT WILL BEAGAIN THE EVISCERATION OF THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT. WE HAVE JUST BEGUN TO PUT THIS ONLINE AND GIVE THE PEOPLE THE INFORMATION THEY NEED. I HOPE YOU VOTE AGAINST THIS BILL. WOULD THE PATRON YIELD FOR A QUESTION? WOULD THE SENATOR FROM STAFFORD YIELD FOR A QUESTION? I YIELD. HE YIELDS, SENATOR. I'M CURIOUS, THE DATABASE WOULD STILL EXIST WITH THE POSITION FOR EXAMPLE HEAD FOOTBALL COACH, UVA AND THE NAME WOULD BE REDACTED. IS THAT CORRECT? MR. PRESIDENT, THAT IS CORRECT. AND TO PROBABLY GIVE MORE OF AN ANSWER THAN HE IS ASKING FOR, YES, BUT YOU ALSO CAN STILL GET THAT INFORMATION FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN RESOURCES MANAGEMENT IF YOU JUST GO ASK FOR IT. OR YOU SEND A WRITTEN FOIA REQUEST. AND THAT IS IMPORTANT BECAUSE THIS BILL HAS BEEN MISCHARACTERIZED TO READ WHAT THE SENATOR FROM FAIRFAX CITY JUST SAID. THAT IS NOT WHAT IT DOES. IT REMOVES THE NAME FROM THE DATABASE. THE INFORMATION IS STILL ACCESSIBLE. YOU JUST HAVE TO ASK FOR IT. IT IS JUST NOT GOING TO BE ONLINE. MR. PRESIDENT,. THE SENATOR FROM BUCKINGHAM. I DON'T KNOW HOW OFTEN THIS ACTUALLY HAPPENS IN THE CHAMBER BUT RIGHT NOW TRULY AT LEAST ONE VOTE HANGS IN THE BALANCE SO I WOULD ASK IF THE SENATOR WOULD YIELD OR A QUESTION FOR TWO. TWO THE GENTLEMAN YIELD. I YIELD. THE GENERAL INFORMATION WOULD STILL BE AVAILABLE. ONE FURTHER QUESTION. HE YIELDS, SENATOR. IS THERE ANY DATA THAT HAS COME TO THE PATRON'S ATTENTION THAT WOULD INDICATE THAT THERE IS A HIGHER AND I THINK I WILL DIGRESS FOR A MOMENT. IS THERE IN I DATA THAT INDICATES A HIGHER PREVALENCE OF IDENTITY THEFT AGAINST STATE EMPLOYEES THAN THE POPULATION AT LARGE. IS THERE ANY DATA THE PATRON HAS SEEN THAT SAY THERE'S IS A DELTA TO THE NEGATIVE TO THE DETRIMENT OF THE STATE EMPLOYEES VERSUS THE POPULATION AT LARGE? THE SENATOR FROM STAFFORD. I WOULD TELL THE GENTLEMAN THAT THE TESTIMONY IN COMMITTEE FROM THE PERSON FROM THE DIRECTOR FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF HUGH MAP RESOURCES MANAGEMENT WHO -- HUMAN RESOURCES MANAGEMENT BELIEVE THERE IS A DIRECT CORRELATION BETWEEN THE PUBLICATION OF THIS INFORMATION AND THE IDENTITY THEFT OF 1,500 STATE EMPLOYEES. I HAVE NOT ANALYZED ANY DATA MYSELF BUT THAT WAS THE TESTIMONY FROM THE DIRECTOR AND IF I DID NOT BELIEVE THAT WERE THE CASE I ODD HAVEN'T BROUGHT THIS BILL -- I WOULDN'T HAVE BROUGHT THIS BILL. THANK YOU, MR. PRESIDENT,. SENATOR SUROVELL. SPEAKING TO THE BILL, MR. PRESIDENT. THE SENATOR HAS THE FLOOR. I STRUGGLE WITH THIS BILL. I BELIEVE IN THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT AND PUT IN FOIA BILLS EVERY YEAR. LAST YEAR I BECAME AWARE THAT SOMEBODY WAS KIND ENOUGH TO FILE MY TAX RETURN IN THREE DIFFERENT STATES FOR ME. THEY FILED IN THE COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA, LOUISIANA AND IN MICHIGAN. I AM NOT A MEMBER OF ANTHEM AND I HAVE NEVER BEEN WITH ANTHEM. I AM WITH CARE FIRST. I DON'T KNOW HOW THEY GOT MY SOCIAL OR MY WIFE'S SOCIAL. THE ONLY WAY I FOUND OUT IS I GOT A LETTER IN THE MAIL FROM THE IRS SAYING I HAD A SIX FIGURE TAX REFUND COMING AND IF I HADN'T OPENED MY MAIL, I WOULD NEVER HAVE KNOWN ABOUT IT. AND I HAD TO SEND LETTERS AND CALL ALL OVER THE PLACE. THE IDENTITY THEFT IS A HUGE PROBLEM. THE ELECTRONIC TAX RETURN FRAUD IS A HUGE PROBLEM. IT IS -- IT IS MUSHROOMING. LAST YEAR, I ENDED UP LOOKING INTO THIS BECAUSE IT HAPPENED TO ME BUT THERE WERE THOUSANDS IF NOT MILLIONS OF ELECTRONICALLY FILED TAX RETURNS ALL OVER THE COUNTRY COSTING THE STATE A LOT OF MONEY TO DEAL WITH THIS TO HAVE SHUT DOWN ALL THESE RETURNS AND I THINK IT IS A REAL PROBLEM. I DON'T KNOW IF -- THIS IS PROBABLY ONE OF THE CAUSES. I DON'T KNOW IF IT IS THE MAIN CAUSE BUT IT IS SOMETHING THAT WE NEED TO START DOING SOMETHING ABOUT. I HEARD THE TESTIMONY IN COMMITTEE AND HAVING PERSONALLY BEEN A VICTIM OF IT I THINK WE NEED TO DO EVERYTHING TO PROTECT OUR STATE EMPLOYEES TO ENSURE THEIR IDENTITY ISN'T STOLEN AND PEOPLE AREN'T STEALING THE RETURNS AND COSTING THE TAXPAYERS MONEY. IT ENDS UP COSTING ALL OF US. NOT JUST ABOUT THEIR PRIVACY. I VOTED FOR IT IN THE BALANCE EVEN THOUGH I AM A BIG ADVOCATE OF SUNSHINE. I WOULD ASK THAT WE VOTE FOR THIS BILL.

Del. Bill Howell (R-Fredericksburg): SHALL SENATE BILL 202 PASS. ALL IN FAVOR OF THE MOTION WILL RECORD THEIR VOTES AYE, THOSE OPPOSED NO. ARE THE SENATORS READY TO VOTE? HAVE ALL THE SENATORS VOTED? DO ANY SENATORS DESIRE TO CH ANGE THEIR VOTE? THE CLERK WILL CLOSE THE ROLL.

[Unknown]: AYES 27, NOS 2. RULE 36, 2. THE BILL PASSES. SENATE BILL 362, A BILL RELATING TO THE VIRGINIA PUBLIC PROCUREMENT ACT; SMALL PURCHASE PROCEDURES; TRANSPORTATION-RELATED CONSTRUCTION.

Comments

ACLU-VA Open Government, tracking this bill in Photosynthesis, notes:

The ACLU of Virginia opposes this bill.

Waldo Jaquith writes:

I'm puzzled by this bill—I can't see any remedy for violations of the law. The bill says:

Publicly available databases of public employees' salaries shall not include the name of any public officer, appointee, or employee.

Is this saying that state-run databases can't include names? Or that no database can include names? It looks to me like I could FOIA the salaries of all employees, piece by piece, turn that into a database, and make it public, and there would be nothing that the state could do to stop me. Do I have that right?

Tom writes:

Yes you can do that now, as this has already been done by the Richmond Times-Dispatch. It appears that this bill is an effort to allow the release of the salary information without personally identifying the employees.