Data Practices Commission Takes Up Several Topics of City Interest

This legislative commission, which will meet seven times before the legislative session starts, has had discussions on a variety of city topics, including email retention and law enforcement technologies.
(Published Nov 20, 2017)

The Legislative Commission on Data Practices, chaired by Rep. Peggy Scott (R-Andover), has met five times so far this fall, and discussions have included several topics of interest to cities.

The Legislative Commission’s first meeting included an overview from the Minnesota Data Practices Office, including the current state of copy costs. The second and third meetings addressed student records and data privacy. The most recent meetings covered city-related topics.

The Legislative Commission will not take action on issues addressed before the legislative session, but will make recommendations on these issues in January. These recommendations will go to the legislative committees with jurisdiction over data practices issues.

Records management and access to data
The Legislative Commission has addressed three bills that were heard during the last legislative session, and will be heard again in 2018.

On behalf of the League, Mike Funk, assistant city manager for the City of Maplewood and the chair of the League’s Data Practices Task Force, testified on Rep. Scott’s correspondence bill, HF 1185, which would require cities to retain all correspondence, including emails, for three years (read related article).

Funk shared that cities understand the balance between the public’s right to access government data and the administrative responsibility related to records retention. He explained that the city general records retention schedule includes 700 specific records, which all have corresponding retention periods.

Cities must adhere to the records retention schedule, even if they adopt email retention policies. Given the safeguards for public access in the current law, the records disposition panel approval process, and general records retention schedule, the League opposes this bill.

There was also discussion on HF 1701 (Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minneapolis) and HF 1316 (Rep. John Lesch, D-St. Paul). Both bills would make certain data public. Rep. Omar’s bill would make public the identity of those who access electronic data. This bill was in response to improper lookups in the state Driver and Vehicle Services (DVS) system. The League has brought up concerns of inadvertent disclosure of protected identities, such as undercover officers.

Rep. Lesch’s bill would reclassify any video, audio, or other recordings of government employees, independent contractors, or volunteers as public (read related article). The League worked with Rep. Lesch and other stakeholders to address city concerns last session and will continue to do so in 2018.

Law enforcement technologies
The Legislative Commission has also discussed the current use and future of law enforcement technologies. Bloomington Police Chief Jeff Potts testified on the city’s use of automated license plate readers (ALPR).

Chief Potts also discussed their audit that was due recently. Audits are due for police departments who had ALPR when the law was enacted in 2015. The Minnesota Data Practices Office reported that the audits they have received thus far are compliant with the law.

Burnsville Police Chief Eric Gieseke testified on the city’s use of body cameras. For law enforcement agencies who had body cameras when the law was enacted in 2016, audits are due in 2018 (read related article about audit requirements).

Upcoming meetings
The next two meetings will address internet privacy and cybersecurity.

Background on the commission
The Legislative Commission on Data Practices is comprised of eight legislative members, equally representing the House and Senate, as well as Republicans and Democrats. Many of the commission members are also members of committees that hear issues related to data practices.

In 2017, legislation (Minnesota Statutes, 3.8843) extended the sunset date for this Legislative Commission to June 30, 2019. The commission did not meet much last year.

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