Bill to Shield U. of Wisconsin Research From Open-Records Law Is Blocked

The head of the Wisconsin State Assembly’s committee on colleges and universities has halted a bill that sought to create broad exemptions to the state’s open-records laws for research in the University of Wisconsin system.

In lobbying for the change, the university has said that the exemptions would help protect research from competitors, and has also raised concerns about the costs associated with public-records requests filed by animal-rights activists.

The bill was set to be discussed at a hearing on Monday, but the committee’s chairman, Rep. Stephen Nass, a Republican, said he would not allow the committee to vote on the legislation as long as the exemptions remained. The bill’s author agreed that those exemptions went too far, and agreed to drop them from the measure.

UW-Madison lobbyist Don Nelson said outside the hearing that the research materials eventually would become public during the patent process and UW attorneys believe the bill’s exemptions apply only to research data.

“It clearly needs more discussion,” Nelson said.

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