Oregon Senate backs new public records exemption

Oregon Senate backs new public records exemption
FILE -- Visitors to the Oregon State Capitol look out from its dome on Saturday, July 6, 2013. (Steve Benham/KATU.com)

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — The Oregon Senate has voted to carve another hole in the state's public records law.

Senators approved a bill that would prohibit disclosure of agreements signed by ranchers over conservation of habitat for sage grouse, a threatened ground bird.

Proponents say the measure is needed to get ranchers to participate in the voluntary conservation program, which aims to keep the grouse off the endangered species list. They say many ranchers are concerned about protecting their personal and business information.

Government transparency advocates worry about the erosion of access to public information. There are more than 400 types of public records that are exempt from disclosure under Oregon law.

The bill returns to the House, which unanimously approved it but must sign off on changes made in the Senate.

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