Surfing Minnesota

New legislation could make state records more accessible online.

State Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, has proposed legislation to increase access to state records; H.F. 2557 would require the stateâÄôs chief information officer, Gopal Khanna, to develop standards for enhanced public access to state electronic records. The bill also allows for the creation of a state webmaster position. As things stand, different departments have Web sites that differ both in appearance and interface, making navigating from one to the other difficult and tedious. KahnâÄôs legislation would try to resolve that issue in a very straightforward way by making one person responsible for developing a web architecture that all state agencies will adhere to. A webmaster, if appointed, will oversee these sites and also provide assistance and guidance for agencies with Web sites not under direct control of the office of information. The legislation most notably includes an amendment to the 2008 Minnesota statutes that set standards for transparency, ensuring the stateâÄôs informational architecture facilitates public access to agency data. Publicly available data will be managed using an approved state metadata model, and all geospatial data conform to an approved state geocode. While this legislation seems small compared to some of the other issues our legislators currently face, it will help journalists, businesses, citizens and researchers utilize state data in a more efficient, transparent manner. Its passage would be a modest, sensible step forward for the state.