Sen. Roraback Re-Introduces Bill To Prevent Voice Mail Transcription Requirement

March 9, 2004

Senator Andrew Roraback, R-30, has re-introduced his legislation to ensure that the State Freedom of Information Law is not interpreted to require public officials to transcribe voice mail messages.

Similar legislation was passed unanimously by the Senate last year, but was not voted upon by the House of Representatives. This year’s measure, SB 584, An Act Concerning the Disclosure of Voice Mails Under the Freedom of Information Act, had a public hearing today before the legislature’s Government Administration and Elections Committee, of which Senator Roraback is a ranking member. Michael Fox, First Selectman of Barkhamsted, traveled to Hartford to testify in support of this bill on behalf of the Litchfield Hills Council of Elected Officials, and the Northwest Connecticut Council of Governments.

“I proposed this bill last year at the request of First Selectmen in my district concerned about a rule under consideration by the Freedom of Information Commission that might require them, and all other elected and appointed volunteer municipal officials, to transcribe voice mail messages under certain circumstances. A year later, the commission is still considering whether to create such a rule, and what that rule might require of those who serve the public, from boards of education members to parks and recreation commission members. Requiring these public servants to transcribe voice mail messages in whole or in part, or charging them with the responsibility of deciding on their own which voice mail messages are worthy of being saved, would create a hardship at worse and a great deal of confusion at best. A requirement to transcribe all voice mail messages would be an unfunded mandate. Requiring government officials to guess which voice mail messages to preserve could leave them open to sanctions if someone decides somewhere down the line that they guessed wrong. Passing this legislation is the right thing to do,” said Senator Roraback.

Senator Roraback said that he fears the chilling effect that a rule requiring the transcription of voice mail messages could have on local government.

“Anyone who is familiar with my stand on the issues knows that I am very much in favor of open government. However, requiring the transcription of voice mail messages takes an important principle to an absurd extreme. And, it could have the unintended consequence of discouraging people from running for elective office, or even volunteering to serve on small town boards and commissions. That would be a terrible outcome for everyone,” said Senator Roraback.