Critical infrastructure public records bill amended, advanced

Lawmakers amended and advanced a bill March 7 intended to protect information related to critical infrastructure in Nebraska.

<a href='' target='_blank' title='Link to the website of Sen. Tom Briese'>Sen. Tom Briese</a>
Sen. Tom Briese

Current law allows for withholding certain information from disclosure under Nebraska’s public records law. As introduced, LB16, sponsored by Albion Sen. Tom Briese, would incorporate terms and definitions from federal regulations in order to add physical and cyber assets of critical energy or electric infrastructure, if the disclosure would threaten national security, public health or safety.

Briese offered an amendment during select file debate to specify language related to personnel exceptions.

The amendment would prohibit disclosure of the identity of personnel whose primary job makes them responsible for providing or granting access to physical or cyber assets or operating and maintaining those assets, if a reasonable person would conclude that such a public disclosure would create a substantial likelihood of risk to those assets.

“I believe that in light of the risks posed to critical energy infrastructure, this expansion beyond what is found in the federal rules is necessary,” Briese said.

The identity of a CEO, general manager, vice president or board member of a public entity could not be withheld under the new exception.

Lincoln Sen. Mike Hilgers, who had expressed concern during general file debate regarding the breadth of the personnel exception, supported the amendment.

“When we’re talking about public records and transparency it’s important to ensure that if we are going to have an exception to the disclosure rules … it’s for a very, very good reason that we can justify and that it’s narrowly tailored to that particular reason and to that purpose,” Hilgers said.

Following adoption of the Briese amendment 32-0 the bill was advanced to final reading by voice vote.

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