The Minnesota Senate is on the verge of approving a change to long-public birth record information. A provision in the HHS omnibus bill would change address information on birth records to a “private” data status, from its currently “public” status under Minnesota law. While the bill contains an exception for medical research, it would close off data to historical researchers, genealogists, and most other citizen requesters.
MNCOGI and the Minnesota Pro chapter of the Society for Professional Journalists recently co-signed a statement in opposition to this change – found below – and at the SPJ web site.
JOINT STATEMENT ON BIRTH RECORD DATA
The Minnesota Pro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information (MNCOGI) oppose a provision of the Senate HHS Omnibus bill relating to the classification of birth record data. In particular, we oppose language (found in lines 217.24, 244.5-244.20, and 244.14) that would deprive the public of access to long-standing public information regarding birth records. For decades, such information has been useful to a wide range of Minnesotans for historical research, genealogy, and other lawful purposes.
By authorizing the release of birth record data only to limited sub-sets of individuals, such as “persons performing medical research,” these provisions of the omnibus bill advance the notion that data should be selectively released to the public based on the type of individual who requests it. This is at odds with the history of the Minnesota Data Practices Act, which does not discriminate between data requesters once government data has been classified as “public.” Such limitations could set a negative precedent for the subsequent classification of a wide variety of data in Minnesota. We urge the committee to reject proposed changes that would constrain public access to long-standing public information.
Chris Newmarker (President, Minnesota SPJ)
Gary Hill (Chair, MNCOGI)