Health Care Exchange bill reviewed

Posted by: on Feb 8, 2013 | No Comments

On February 5th, the House Data Practices subcommittee reviewed several of the Open Meeting Law and Data Practices provisions of HF 5, the House version of the enabling legislation for the Minnesota Health Care Exchange.

Several days earlier, during a February 1st public hearing, the language of the bill drew criticism over a lack of specificity regarding data protections and/or data sharing.  During that hearing, MNCOGI Board Member Don Gemberling testified about issues in the bill’s data provisions, and offered assistance to the Data Practices subcommittee to rework the language.

Rich Neumeister’s Open Secrets blog has a summary of recent activity with the bill.

E-mail bill to get Senate hearing

Posted by: on Jan 28, 2013 | No Comments

On January 29, 2013, the Minnesota Senate Judiciary Committee will take up SF No. 60, a bill that proposes to make citizen e-mail addresses  submitted to government entities “not public” data under the Minnesota Data Practices Act.  Such information includes e-mail addresses submitted for snow-plowing and other types of notification.

Last week, the House Civil Law Committee heard testimony from the author of the House companion bill, and referred the matter to the body’s Data Practices sub-committee for further deliberation.

The House version of the bill (HF No. 20) was amended last week to remove language that allowed e-mail addresses to be shared for “government purposes.”

MNCOGI has taken the position that e-mail addresses submitted for notification purposes should remain public data, but that government entities should notify citizen submitters that their data will be publicly available under the Data Practices Act.

Minnesota lawmakers propose safeguards against misuse of government databases

Posted by: on Jan 24, 2013 | No Comments

Minnesota lawmakers propose safeguards against misuse of government databases
By Kyle Potter
Associated Press

Updated: 01/23/2013 08:14:37 PM CST

Sens. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, and Rep. Mary Liz Holberg, R-Lakeville
A week after more than 5,000 Minnesotans found out that a Department of Natural Resources employee had looked up their driving or motor vehicle records, state lawmakers Wednesday announced their plan to curb abuse of databases.
Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, and Rep. Mary Liz Holberg, R-Lakeville, outlined a bill that would require all state and local government agencies to establish better safeguards against database misuse and calls for harsher criminal penalties for violators.
Holberg said the breach at the DNR underscored the need for an overhaul of how government handles its data on Minnesotans.
“We’re just really frustrated that this is continuing to happen,” Holberg said. “This situation has to stop.”
The bill would increase the penalty for repeatedly abusing a database from a misdemeanor to a gross misdemeanor.
It also would require all government entities to post an investigation on the Internet, detailing what data was accessed, how many people were affected and naming who was responsible.
Holberg and Dibble’s bill would apply to local government and law enforcement as well. Current law only governs state agencies.
Investigations have found that misuse of the state driver’s license and motor vehicle database is common. Minneapolis, St. Paul and more than 10 other municipalities have paid out $1 million combined in settlements to a former area police officer who accused other officers of improperly accessing her driver’s license information.
It’s especially troubling that databases are being abused “by public safety employees whom we trust with sensitive information,” Dibble said.
Dibble and Holberg said they’ll consider recommendations from the legislative auditor, who is expected to release a report next month on how law enforcement uses state databases.
“I think everybody recognizes that we don’t have the proper systems and procedures in place,” Holberg said.

House Civil Law Committee to hear HF 20 on January 22

Posted by: on Jan 21, 2013 | No Comments

The Civil Law Committee of the Minnesota House of Representatives will hear testimony related to HF 20, Representative Freiberg’s bill relating to e-mail addresses submitted to governmental entities for “notification or informational purposes.”  HF 20 would make such data “private data on individuals.”  Currently, such data is public.

The committee hearing is scheduled to begin at 8:15am in the basement hearing room of the State Office Building.

Minnesota Legislature – Data Practices bills introduced January 16

Posted by: on Jan 21, 2013 | No Comments

SF No. 43 – The bill would amend Chapter 13 so that “Government data of a political subdivision on requests for notices of services or activities of a political subdivision” would be “private data on individuals or nonpublic data.”

SF No. 60 – The bill is the Senate companion to HF No. 20.  The bill proposes to keep e-mail addresses submitted to government entities “not public.”

Minneapolis seeks LPR data classification

Posted by: on Jan 15, 2013 | No Comments

The City of Minneapolis is asking IPAD, the office with the Department of Administration that reviews Data Practices issues, to issue a temporary classification for License Plate Recognition (LPR) data.  The data, which consists of millions of police scans of vehicle plates captured by squad car-mounted cameras, is currently available as public data under the Minnesota Data Practices Act.  Minneapolis is seeking to have the data temporarily classified as “not public” in anticipation of more comprehensive action by the Minnesota Legislature.

The legislature is expected to take up questions of LPR retention and classification during its 2013 session.  MNCOGI will be presenting its perspective on LPR data issues at its January 28 public forum.

Minnesota Legislature – first Data Practices, Open Meeting bills

Posted by: on Jan 15, 2013 | No Comments

The Minnesota Legislature convened on January 8, 2013.  The following bills were introduced on January 10th.  Each has some bearing on Data Practices and Open Meeting issues:

HF No. 5, Establishing a Minnesota insurance exchange

HF No. 5 creates a board to direct the function of the insurance exchange.  The bill contains provisions which would exempt certain board discussions (contract negotiations, personnel matters, trade secret information) from the Open Meeting law.

SF No. 1,  Senate companion to HF No. 5, with similar provisions

HF No. 20, Classifying e-mail and telephone data

HF No. 20 would classify e-mail and telephone information provided to government entities for notification purposes (snow plowing, etc) as “private data on individuals.”  This data is currently public data.

HF No. 42, Subjecting certain DNR/tribal meetings to the Open Meeting law

HF No. 42 would subject meetings involving the Department of Natural Resources, Ojibwe bands, and the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission to the Open Meeing Law.


Man who was charged after recording deputies has free lawyer

Posted by: on Jan 15, 2013 | No Comments

A private attorney working with the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota has agreed to represent a Little Canada man whose video camera was taken from him by a sheriff’s deputy.

Andrew Henderson, 28, was recording an incident involving a man at his apartment building Oct. 30 when Ramsey County sheriff’s deputy Jacqueline Muellner grabbed the camera.

Henderson was later charged with obstructing legal process and disorderly conduct. He said he was sitting about 30 feet away from the incident. Muellner wrote on the citation that Henderson was interfering with the privacy of the other man, who was being loaded into an ambulance.

Henderson eventually got the camera back, but there was no recording on it. He believes it was deleted.

“A citizen such as Mr. Henderson has an absolute right to be present in a public area, as he was, and to take pictures or to film the surroundings, including police officers that were present,” said Henderson’s attorney, John Lundquist of Fredrikson & Byron in Minneapolis, on Friday, Jan. 11. “And by seizing his camera, they violated in a very dramatic way his First Amendment rights.”

Lundquist is a criminal defense attorney with 30 years experience at his firm.

Chuck Samuelson of the ACLU confirmed that the nonprofit had come to a verbal agreement with Lundquist and Henderson on Friday on Henderson’s representation.

Attorneys with the firm of Kelly & Lemmons, which is prosecuting Henderson on behalf of the city of
Little Canada, did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment Friday.

“We figure that when they’re faced with legitimate legal representation, they’ll say, ‘Oops, our bad,’ and drop the case,” Samuelson said.

Henderson’s next court appearance is scheduled for Jan. 30.
When Muellner took his camera the night of the incident, she told him, “If I end up on YouTube, I’m gonna be upset.”

Henderson told her that what he was doing was legal. He refused to give his name.

But he identified himself when he went to the sheriff’s station the next day to retrieve the camera. He received the citation in the mail a few days after that.

Henderson’s case is similar to others around the country involving citizens recording police activities.

Courts have ruled elsewhere that law enforcement officers have no expectation of privacy when they carry out their duties in a public place.

Ramsey County sheriff’s spokesman Randy Gustafson said Tuesday that it is not the department’s policy to take people’s cameras. People are within their rights to record deputies’ activities, he said.

Henderson said he carries his camera with him and uses it often. Police should be held accountable for their actions, he said.

The deputy wrote on the citation, “While handling a medical/check the welfare (call), (Henderson) was filming it. Data privacy HIPAA violation. Refused to identify self. Had to stop dealing with sit(uation) to deal w/Henderson.”

HIPAA, or the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, deals with how consumers’ health information is handled by health care providers. It does not cover private citizens recording a medical event.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in May ruled that an Illinois law barring audio recording of a conversation without consent of all parties “restricts far more speech than necessary to protect legitimate privacy interests.” As applied in that case, “(the law) likely violates the First Amendment’s free-speech and free-press guarantees,” the court ruled.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined in November to hear the state’s appeal.

In another case, Boston attorney Simon Glik was arrested in 2007 after he used his cellphone to videorecord several police officers roughly arresting another man. The state charged him with violating Massachusetts’ wiretap law; those charges were thrown out.

Glik sued the city of Boston, claiming his arrest constituted a violation of his rights under the First and Fourth Amendments.

The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2011 that Glik was “exercising clearly established First Amendment rights in filming the officers in a public space, and that his clearly established Fourth Amendment rights were violated by his arrest without probable cause.”

The city of Boston paid Glik $170,000.

Emily Gurnon can be reached at 651-228-5522. Follow her at

COGI-tation on Data Practices issues facing the MN Legislature

Posted by: on Jan 8, 2013 | No Comments

On January 28, 2013, the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information (MNCOGI) will host a public discussion on Data Practices issues facing the 2013 Minnesota Legislature.  The Minnesota Data Practices Act is the state’s chief open government law.
Issues to be discussed will include the status of license plate scan data; whether citizen e-mail addresses held by government entities should be public or private; the extent to which personnel data about public officials should be public, the degree to which “criminal intelligence data” should be kept secret, and possible changes to how the Data Practices Act is enforced.

COGI-tations are free, public forums sponsored by the
Minnesota Coalition on Government Information.

Monday, Jan 28, 2013, 2-3:30 pm in MN Capitol Meeting Room 118

MNCOGI board member Don Gemberling will present MNCOGI’s positions on several issues that will come before the legislature this year.  Mr. Gemberling was the past director of IPAD, the office within the Department of Administration responsible for Data Practices issues.

Questions? Contact: Helen Burke, MNCOGI Board Chair at

​A Look at Cameras in Minnesota Courts

Posted by: on Oct 16, 2012 | No Comments

The Minnesota Supreme Court is allowing cameras to record proceedings in civil cases for a test that runs through June 30, 2013. The Minnesota Coalition on Government Information is hosting a panel discussion to examine this experiment at its halfway point. 

Minnesota news organizations hope that the test will demonstrate that recording equipment does not disrupt court proceedings, and can enhance the public’s understanding of what goes on inside its courts.  They also hope that the experiment will open the door to expanded coverage of criminal court proceedings in Minnesota.

Panel discussion:
Wednesday, Oct. 24,  11am-12:30pm in Room 10 of the State Office Building. 

Panelists include:
Seventh District Assistant Chief Judge John H. Scherer of Stearns County
Ramsey County District Judge Margaret Marrinan
Emily Gurnon, courts reporter for the St. Paul Pioneer Press
Joan Gilbertson, producer for WCCO-TV
David Unze, reporter for the St. Cloud Times

Moderator:  John P. Borger, MNCOGI board member and partner at Faegre Baker Daniels

Minnesota CLE credits are pending approval

Questions?  Contact Helen Burke, MNCOGI Board Chair at