Under the Dome

W.Va. enacts reporters shield law with protection for student journos

CHARLESTON — A newly enacted law in West Virginia isamong the first in the nation to specifically protect student journalists fromrevealing confidential sources.

The bill prevents reporters from being forced to revealtheir sources in state courts, grand jury proceedings and administrativehearings unless the testimony is needed to prevent “imminent death, seriousbodily injury or unjust incarceration.”

After a last-minute amendment, the shield law applies tostudent journalists at “accredited educational institutions,” even if they areunpaid.

Neb. student press freedom bill sits in committee for second year

LINCOLN — A renewed attempt to provide Nebraskastudents with added free speech protection appears to have failed again.

The bill received a hearing before the Education Committeein March but had not received a vote by press time. The legislative session wasscheduled to end June 8.

This is the second straight year Sen. Ken Haar, D-Malcolm,has sponsored a bill to give students expanded expression rights. The versionintroduced this session did not include earlier protection for teachers whosupport their students’ rights.

Calif. legislator tries again on university foundation records bill

SACRAMENTO — After twice being vetoed, legislation tomake the records of university foundations open to public is again up fordebate.

This time, however, the process has one major difference: anew governor.

Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, is sponsoring the bill. Itrequires that private auxilaries of public colleges, such as universityfoundations, comply with California’s public records laws.

It passed the Senate Education Committee on May 11 and wasscheduled to receive an unexpected, additional hearing before the SenateAppropriations Committee.

The legislation has passed both houses twice before beingvetoed by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican. Since then, JerryBrown, a Democrat, was elected as governor.

Some universities argue the bill will result in fewerdonations to the cash-strapped institutions.

Utah passes, then repeals major changes to state open-records law

SALT LAKE CITY — In the course of a week, legislatorsin Utah introduced, passed, recalled, delayed and again passed a controversialchange to the state public records law.

Three weeks later they repealed it.

HB477 would have eliminated the presumption of openness ingovernment records. It also would haveexempted text messages and many electronic records held by governmentofficials.

Shortly after it was introduced near the end of thelegislative session, the bill became a political lightning rod. Transparencyadvocates claimed the bill would completely dismantle the state’s publicrecords act. Hundreds rallied via social media and in person at the Capitol inprotest.

After passing by a large margin, the bill was “recalled”under threat of veto by Gov. Gary Herbert. The effective date was delayed untilmid-summer. A few weeks later, Herbert called a special session to repeal thelaw entirely. A committee is now studying the issue.