California Records Access Threat– Journalists & Genealogists Respond — Updated

This has been a tumultuous week since we first became aware that the California Legislature intended to consider a proposal that would have made compliance with a California Public Records Act request voluntary, potentially undermining public access to public records..

An RPAC letter to Governor Brown voicing our concerns is attached here:  CA AB 76-1:

IAJGS also sent a letter to the Governor attached here:  IAJGS Veto Request- CA AB 76 Final

This action was originally suggested  as part of the governor’s budget proposal as a vehicle for cutting “tens of millions” of dollars annually from the state budget.  The legal framework applicable in California would require that if a state statute imposes  a mandate upon county and local agencies, the state must reimburse for the cost of compliance.  The intended effect of  making compliance voluntary, would have been to shift costs from the state budget books entirely to the subordinate jurisdictions.

The California Constitutional aspects of this issue were well addressed by The Legal Genealogist (Judy Russell) in her blog entry of 19 June 2013.  .

Journalists and open-government advocates were outraged.  There has been an informative (and, at times entertaining) running commentary in local newspapers as this saga has unfolded.  Typically:





(6)  Dan Walters Daily: Legislative scramble a bit like Laurel & Hardy

With thanks to RPAC Member Jan Meisels Allen for continuing to monitor this developing issue.





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Georgia Archives — This Feels Like Progress!

With thanks to Elizabeth Olsen, RPAC State Liaison for Georgia for sharing a blog posting from GeorgiaArchivesMatters, a blog by volunteer advocates for the Georgia Archives, mostly from the Georgia Genealogical Society:

June 14, 2013 · 4:45 pm

More Good News From the Archives

At today’s Lunch and Learn program, Georgia Archives Director Christopher Davidson announced that the Archives will be adding staff, increasing hours for part-time employees and, yes, opening to the public for two additional days per week.

Here are the highlights:

  • Hiring three additional professionals
  • Increasing part-time staff hours
  • Opening to the public on Wednesdays and Thursdays beginning July 31. Weekly hours will be Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • Increasing conservation and processing activities of the Archives collections

The Archives will report to Steve Wrigley, Executive Vice Chancellor Administration, of the University System of Georgia.

Thanks to all the wonderful volunteers who helped make this happen, as well as Gov. Nathan Deal and the members of the Georgia legislature.

Vivian Price Saffold

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Oregon Update– House & Senate action on HB2093

Genealogists join with funeral directors, State Archivists, Circuit Courts and Council of local Health Officials to change legislative proposal that would have extended  confidentiality periods of vital records.  Chairman questions need for confidentiality of vital records.

Audio of House Health Care Committee Markup

0410 Oregon HB2093-4

RPAC Statement to Oregon House Health Care Committee

Oregon state vital records statement final

With thanks to Jan Meisels Allen  for the following narrative:

House Committee Markup On April 10th

I don’t know how many of you listened in to the hearing or accessed the audio only archives—but we won! The hearing was only on the amended version I sent out earlier today —4  and is attached again which keeps the birth records at 100 years, and death, marriage, divorce, annulment and partnership at 50 years.  See Section SECTION 33. ORS 432.121 (7a)  (page 73)   It also removes the restriction on cause of death that is in the existing statute.   See Section SECTION 33. ORS 432.121 (3)  [page 69] in the italicized ( redacted) portion and nothing comparable in the new language (bold)  page 70-71.


The  person presenting the bill was Jennifer Woodward, state registrar for public records and she mentioned that the amended version was a gut and stuff- but 80% of the bill was current statutory language.  She emphasized while the amendments accommodated the funeral directors, state archivist, council of cites and genealogists and emphasized genealogists.  There were two genealogists that testified—they had originally opposed the bill but dropped their opposition to the bill with the amended version. The Chairman said he doesn’t understand the privacy concerns and for another day would like to get down to 0-1 year wait period!  The bill goes straight to the House floor- could be as early as this Friday or next Monday and then to the Senate Health Committee. I spoke with the staff following the hearing and a letter of support to the amended version to the Senate Health Care and Human Services Committee would be worthwhile. Contact information is available at:


If you want to hear the archives go to: scroll down to archives 2013 and then Archives of Committee Meetings from the 2013 Session then House Committee on Health Care with today’s date—you  need to download RealPlayer- its free and there is a link on the site. You can move the time to 37.30 for the bill we are interested in and the full time and testimony and vote ends by 47.1.

Senate Committee Action —  Floor vote pending as of May 10th

Oregon HB 2093A (as amended and passed in the House as we supported it)  was heard in the Oregon Senate Health Care and Human Services Committee on May 9.  Looking at the legislative website it passed 4-0 ( one committee member was excused). It is now waiting to be sent to the floor of the Senate for vote and with no unexpected occurrences it should pass and go to the governor for signature.  The bill as it was passed –no changes from the House is located at: the issue we are interested in is on page 42.



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RPAC at NGS Las Vegas this week– Wednesday the 8th of May

Records preservation and access issues will be addressed in at least three sessions at the National Genealogical Society’s annual conference in Las Vegas this week.

The APG Luncheon on Wednesday, the 8th of May, will feature Harold Henderson, CG addressing the topic “It’s not just SSDI:  How We Can Advocate for Geanealogy While Still Practicing It” in Ballroom C.

On Wednesday, the 8th of May, Melinde Lutz Burne will suggest that active advocacy is our only recourse in a world where public records document private lives. Her lecture entitled “Advocacy for Record Access” will be held in Ballroom F beginning at 2:30pm Pacific Daylight time.

Later in the afternoon, beginning at 4:00pm Pacific Daylight Time in Pavilion 6, three members of the Records Preservation and Access Committee will lead a discussion entitled “RPAC Strategies in a Changing Environment: Fraud Protection v. Access”. Access to genealogical information is under attack. Featuring Janet A. Alpert (new Chair of RPAC), Jan Meisels Allen (representative from the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies), and Frederick E. Moss (legal advisor to FGS) we will survey recent challenges and suggest ways in which individual genealogist can become involved and make a difference.

If you are in Las Vegas, please join us. RPAC members and RPAC State Liaisons have been given instructions which can enable them to participate remotely. Contact if you have any questions.

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Senate Finance Committee 16 April Hearing — Tax Fraud and Tax ID Theft

The information provided by the witnesses in this hearing give multiple reasons to be encouraged by the actions being taken to combat refund fraud and help victims of identity theft.  Their written statements are available at:  The testimony of Steven T. Miller, Acting Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service described a number of significant steps they have taken.

Of the multiple congressional hearings addressing the threat of tax fraud by identity theft, this is the first to suggest that real progress is being made.  By targeting the criminal through the use of appropriate filters, investigation and aggressive enforcement, the efforts of identity thieves are being thwarted.  Hopefully, by publicizing the results of successful prosecutions and the award of substantial penalties to the offenders, others may be deterred.

To the extent that the SSDI on genealogical websites was ever the source of compromised SSNs then used to file fraudulent tax refund claims, the responsible actions taken by those websites should have denied access to that information.  In fact, while it is only informed speculation on my part that we should have seen few, if any, fraudulent returns attributable to SSNs accessed from the SSDI during the filing season just ended, the IRS should eventually be able to statistically confirm that that vulnerability targeting the deceased has been closed.

In the March 20, 2012 hearing on this topic before a subcommittee of the Senate Finance Committee, RPAC and its sponsoring organizations indicated that while most genealogist could accommodate a three year delay before accessing the SSNs of recently deceased persons, there were several categories of genealogical research for which a three year delay would be problematic.  This topic is explored in the Statement for the Record submitted by IAJGS found at:  IAJGS Statement to Senate Finance Committee April 16 2013 Hearing Final

A careful review of the steps reportedly taken by the IRS, especially when coupled with the step taken by responsible genealogical entities historically hosting the SSDI on their sites,  suggests that tax fraud by this particular form of identity theft may no longer be the risk it was in 2011.  The need for statutory restrictions on access to the SSDI may have passed.

The RPAC Statement for the Record suggesting that conclusion is found at:  RPAC Statement for Record Senate Finance 16 April 2013 Final

The most significant vulnerability in the IRS on-line tax refund process has finally been identified. We should continue to be concerned that the SSNs of living persons will continue to be vulnerable so long as the IRS is mandated to expedite the payment of refund claims before they have even received information returns necessary to determine their validity.

This message is one we must share with our friends and elected representatives.

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SSDI — Another Bill Restricting Access — SB 676

With thanks to Jan Meisels Allan.

While the press release by Senator Nelson did not include mention of the DMF/SSDI- although his opening hearing comments did, the actual bill language is now published and it is much more extensive than what was included in the press release.


On April 9 Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) introduced SB 676 along with Senators Feinstein (D-CA) and Schumer (D-NY). The bill restricts access to the Death Master File–of which the Social Security Death Index is the commercial version. Title III of the bill restricts access for the year of death or two succeeding calendar years unless the person is certified under the program by the Secretary of Commerce. Persons who may be certified include legitimate interest in preventing fraud or unauthorized financial transactions, applicable law, regulation, court order, or fiduciary duty, facilitate administration of an insurance policy and credit reporting. There are no provisions for genealogists to be certified. The bill also permits the Social Security Administration not to be compelled to provide information on Social Security information to those who are not certified. The bill also calls for cessation of Social Security numbers on Medicare cards and Medicare correspondence and contains provisions on penalties for those who fraudulently use another’s  identity expedited refunds for fraud and abuse victims and more.


To read the bill go to:



Jan Meisels Allen

IAJGS Vice President

Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee



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Texas — Update Pending

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Oregon — Update Pending

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Washington State — Update Pending

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Oklahoma Surprises — Update pending

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