HB108 was voted ought to pass with amendment 17-0 by the House Judiciary Committee this week. This bill clarifies that a vote to seal non-public minutes must be taken in public. The committee amendment removed the section on the contents of non-public minutes. Here is the full amended sentence:
Minutes and decisions reached in nonpublic session shall be publicly disclosed within 72 hours of the meeting, unless, by recorded vote of 2/3 of the members present[,] taken in public session, it is determined that divulgence of the information likely would affect adversely the reputation of any person other than a member of the public body itself, or render the proposed action ineffective, or pertain to terrorism, more specifically, to matters relating to the preparation for and the carrying out of all emergency functions, developed by local or state safety officials that are directly intended to thwart a deliberate act that is intended to result in widespread or severe damage to property or widespread injury or loss of life.
The report on the bill from the committee was written by Rep. Timothy Horrigan:
A committee or other governmental body can hold nonpublic sessions only to discuss certain specific subject matters. RSA 91-A: 3 contains 11 subparagraphs which basically limit nonpublic sessions to: personnel and labor issues, contract negotiations, litigation, public safety issues, private financial information, and other confidential information. Usually, the minutes will end up being sealed, for the same reasons why the session itself was made nonpublic in the first place. The existing law already requires the body to affirmatively take a recorded vote to seal the minutes of a nonpublic session. This bill merely deals with how such votes are taken. Members of a committee or other body are still allowed to debate the issue of sealing the minutes in nonpublic session— but the actual recorded vote has to happen in public session. The majority of the Judiciary Committee agreed that the passage of HB 108 as amended would increase the public’s confidence that nonpublic sessions are being held only when necessary.
This bill now goes to the full House for a vote.