On March 9, the Virginia General Assembly formally commissioned a joint subcommittee
of legislators and citizens to examine the impact of electronic records on
the state depository. The purpose of the study is to generate proposals to
amend the Public Records Act ("PRA").
The PRA designates the Library of Virginia as the depository of state records.
The library currently houses more than 200,000 state government publications
and 37,960 feet of state records, in all approximately 57 million items. But
despite its impressive collection, the library does not hold all state records
available to the public.
With the emergence of the Internet as an alternative to print media, many
state agencies, perhaps in response to stringent fiscal conditions, have chosen
to post reports and publications on their Web sites instead of producing them
in print. This proliferation of electronic records challenged the PRA’s
scheme to house all state records under a single roof. Furthermore, even if
state agencies continue to print all their publications, the library still
could not hold all the records as it is running out of space.
In response to these challenges, the legislature created the joint subcommittee
to make recommendations for the revision of the PRA. According to enabling
legislation of HJ 6, "the joint subcommittee shall consist of 11 members
that include six legislative members, three nonlegislative citizen members,
and two ex officio members."
Of the six legislative members, four are House delegates appointed by the
Speaker of the House of Delegates, and two are Senators appointed by the Senate
Committee on Rules. The speaker also appoints one citizen at large, and the
Senate Committee appoints one member of the library board to serve on the subcommittee.
The remaining three positions will be assigned to the president of the Circuit
Court Clerks Association, the director of the Division of Legislative Automated
Systems, and the state records administrator, or their designees, all of whom
serve as ex officio members.
The enabling legislation grants the group two years to "develop a plan
for the long-term reduction of report printing and distribution, as well as
the archiving of state electronic records." The group is scheduled to
complete its first year of meetings by Nov. 30, and report its findings to
the General Assembly at the first opportunity after that date.
-- Albert Sheng, VCOG intern