JS Online reports that:
A Dane County judge ruled Wednesday that drafts of what may become formal bills in the Legislature do not have to be made public under the open records law, even if legislators have shared them with individuals or special-interest groups outside the Capitol. . . .
In his ruling, [Circuit Judge David] Flanagan said collecting information about what may become bills, before they are formally introduced, has long been an “essential, core” part of the legislative process and does not violate the Open Records Law.
“It is not readily apparent that there is abuse or unfair exclusion necessarily inherent in a process whereby each legislator is free to seek whatever advice he or she believes may be useful,” Flanagan ruled.
“The preliminary and tentative character of the draft document remains the same regardless of whether the persons selected by the legislator for advice are within or outside of the Legislature,” the judge added.
Update 7/3/07: State Representative, Jim Soletski of the 88th Assembly District has written a letter to AG Van Hollen asking him to appeal the ruling. From the Wheeler Report. Thanks to Bill Ebbott for the tip.