[USA] NAPHSIS Alert and Updates on Legislative Wins--Genealogists Make a Difference!

Posted by: Jan Meisels Allen

At the recent National Public Health Statistics and Information Systems (NAHPSIS) annual meeting held in Phoenix, AZ an associate from the Records Preservation and  Access Committee (RPAC) * representative for the Board for Certification of Genealogists [BCG]  and Co-Director for Civil Records of the Massachusetts Genealogical Council , Barbara Mathews, informed RPAC that the NAPHSIS members—vital records officers--  do not count genealogists among their stakeholders . What is most distressing is that several of the state vital records officers ( state, county  records clerks) stated what they could not get through legislation,  i.e.,  the extended embargo periods for birth records for 125 years, marriage, annulment, divorce and death records 100 years, they  plan  to do by regulation.  We  need to be vigilant and watch proposed regulations coming out of each state as well as proposed legislation. The proposed regulations may be from the state Vital Records Division or Department of Health Services-varying by state. If you learn of any proposed regulations that address access to birth, marriage, death and divorce records please let me know.

* RPAC is a joint committee of Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS), The National Genealogical Society (NGS), and IAJGS as sponsoring members. The Association of Professional Genealogists (APG), the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG), International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists (ICAPGen), and the American Society of Genealogists (ASG) also serve as participating members. By invitation, RPAC also includes participation from a few commercial providers of genealogical information. RPAC meets monthly to inform and advise the genealogical community on ensuring proper access to vital records and on supporting strong records preservation policies and practices at the federal, state, and occasionally the local level.
Genealogists made a difference this year and working together showed we can win these legislative initiatives that would adversely affect our access to vital records, census and other genealogically relevant materials. While not all state legislatures adjourned as of yet—some meet the year round such as Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, or go nine months such as California many have adjourned for the year while others will adjourn later this month or next month.  To check your state’s 2013  adjournment date see:

For those states that had issues that IAJGS has been following we have had some great successes due to the genealogical community’s efforts.  Here is a summary of some of our successes:

HB 5733, HB 5421

The Connecticut Legislature adjourned on June 5  (really 2AM on June 6) without taking action on the two bills that would have effected an embargo on death records. HB 5733 which would impose a 100-year waiting period for death records or HB 5421 which removes the genealogists exemption for immediate access and to the full death record. IAJGS submitted a statement to the House of Representatives expressing our concerns.

HB 6424 as previously reported to carry an amendment that would have allowed victims' families to have the final say on whether photos, videos, or audio "depicting the physical condition of any victim" can be released to the public. This affects the press rather than genealogists.  In the end, this was not the bill that this amendment.

SB 1146
This bill did carry the amendment and passed in the wee hours of June 6 ---they “stopped the clock” so the legislature could finish their work on this bill which amends the Connecticut Freedom of Information Act . The bill passed and Governor Daniel P. Malloy signed the bill into law within 12 hours and it became effective upon signing by the governor.  To read the passed amended version see: http://www.cga.ct.gov/2013/amd/S/2013SB-01149-R00SA-AMD.htm

Georgia  HB 287

Legislation was enacted that transferred the archives to the University System of Georgia  HB 287 saving what had thought to be the demise of the archives. The archives had already suffered through massive budget cuts resulting in being open only two days a week with a  much reduced staff. When Governor Deal also signed the budget bill allocating funding to the University System for the Archives –a two-pronged legislative approach—transferring authority and budgeting funds—the genealogical community knew we had “won”. While funding is not back to the previous years’ levels it is more than what had originally been budgeted for the two days a week with limited staff.

Oregon  HB 2093

Oregon HB 2093 if passed as originally introduced would have extended the current embargo period for birth records to 125 years and marriage and death to 100 years- as proposed in the 2011 proposed Model Vital Records Act.  Due to the great efforts by the genealogical community the bill was amended in the provision on the embargo of vital records to retain the existing embargo wait periods: 100 years for birth and 50 years for marriage and death., Other provisions not affecting access to vital records included in the 2011 Model Vital Records Act were adopted.  The bill passed both legislative chambers and as of the writing of this records access alert update, the Governor’s office has yet to receive the bill—it is still awaiting the signatures of the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House.  It is expected that both signatures will be forthcoming.  To read the enrolled version of the  bill go to: http://landru.leg.state.or.us/13reg/measures/hb2000.dir/hb2093.en.html  The issue of interest to genealogists is on page 42 section(7).

Texas HB 3252

Texas genealogists were successful in getting –HB 3252 –left pending in committee on April 3. This bill would have adopted some of  the 2011 Proposed Model Vital Records Act and extended the embargo period for accessing records: birth records for 125 years and death records for 50 years. Current embargo periods are 75 years for birth and 25 years for death records. The Texas Legislature adjourned sine die on May 27 without further action-therefore the bill did not pass.

Jan Meisels Allen
IAJGS Vice President
Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee

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