Connecticut Seal

Substitute House Bill No. 5625

Public Act No. 02-137

AN ACT CONCERNING THE CONFIDENTIALITY AND RETENTION OF MILITARY DISCHARGE DOCUMENTS, THE APPOINTMENT OF ASSISTANT TOWN CLERKS, THE WAIVER OF VENDING FEES FOR CERTAIN VETERANS, THE MUNICIPAL OPTION TO PROVIDE AN ADDITIONAL PROPERTY TAX EXEMPTION FOR VETERANS, THE MAXIMUM PROPERTY VALUE FOR MUNICIPAL TAX LIEN FORECLOSURES, THE ELECTRONIC SCANNING OF PUBLIC RECORDS, THE WAIVER OF PUBLIC RECORD FEES FOR CERTAIN OFFICIALS AND THE DISCLOSURE OF CERTAIN AUTOPSY RECORDS.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:

Section 1. (NEW) (Effective October 1, 2002) (a) As used in this section: (1) "Armed forces" means the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard or Air Force of the United States; (2) "veteran" means any person honorably discharged from, or released under honorable conditions from active service or reserve status in the armed forces; (3) "military discharge document" means a United States Department of Defense form, including, but not limited to, a DD 214 form, or any valid paper that evidences the service, discharge or retirement of a veteran from the armed forces that contains personal information such as a service number or Social Security number; (4) "person" means any individual or entity, including, but not limited to, a relative of a veteran, a licensed funeral director or embalmer, an attorney-at-law, an attorney-in-fact, an insurance company or a veterans' advocate; and (5) "public agency" or "agency" means a public agency, as defined in section 1-200 of the general statutes, as amended.

(b) A veteran or designee may file a military discharge document with the town clerk of the town in which the veteran resides or with any other public agency if the military discharge document is related to the business of the town or other agency, and the town or agency shall maintain and record the military discharge document in accordance with this section.

(c) Notwithstanding any provision of chapter 55 of the general statutes, or any provision of section 11-8 or 11-8a of the general statutes, any military discharge document filed by or on behalf of a veteran with a public agency before, on or after October 1, 2002, except a military discharge document recorded before October 1, 2002, on the land records of a town, shall be retained by the agency separate and apart from the other records of the agency. The contents of such document shall be confidential for at least seventy-five years from the date the document is filed with the public agency, except that:

(1) The information contained in the document shall be available to the veteran, or a conservator of the person of the veteran or a conservator of the estate of the veteran, at all times;

(2) Any information contained in such military discharge document which is necessary to establish, or that aids in establishing, eligibility for any local, state or federal benefit or program applied for by, or on behalf of, the veteran, including, but not limited to, the name of the veteran, the veteran's residential address, dates of qualifying active or reserve military service, or military discharge status, shall be available to the public at all times; and

(3) In addition to the information available under subdivision (2) of this subsection, any other information contained in the document shall be available to (A) any person who may provide a benefit to, or acquire a benefit for, the veteran or the estate of the veteran, provided the person needs the information to provide the benefit and submits satisfactory evidence of such need to the agency, (B) the State Librarian as required for the performance of his or her duties, and (C) a genealogical society incorporated or authorized by the Secretary of the State to do business or conduct affairs in this state or a member of such genealogical society.

(d) The provisions of this section concerning the maintenance and recording of Department of Defense documents shall not apply to the State Library Board or the State Librarian.

Sec. 2. Subsection (a) of section 1-210 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective October 1, 2002):

(a) Except as otherwise provided by any federal law or state statute, all records maintained or kept on file by any public agency, whether or not such records are required by any law or by any rule or regulation, shall be public records and every person shall have the right to (1) inspect such records promptly during regular office or business hours, [or to] (2) copy such records in accordance with subsection (g) of section 1-212, as amended by this act, or (3) receive a copy of such records in accordance with [the provisions of] section 1-212, as amended by this act. Any agency rule or regulation, or part thereof, that conflicts with the provisions of this subsection or diminishes or curtails in any way the rights granted by this subsection shall be void. Each such agency shall keep and maintain all public records in its custody at its regular office or place of business in an accessible place and, if there is no such office or place of business, the public records pertaining to such agency shall be kept in the office of the clerk of the political subdivision in which such public agency is located or of the Secretary of the State, as the case may be. Any certified record hereunder attested as a true copy by the clerk, chief or deputy of such agency or by such other person designated or empowered by law to so act, shall be competent evidence in any court of this state of the facts contained therein. Each such agency shall make, keep and maintain a record of the proceedings of its meetings.

Sec. 3. Section 1-212 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective October 1, 2002):

(a) Any person applying in writing shall receive, promptly upon request, a plain or certified copy of any public record. The fee for any copy provided in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act:

(1) By an executive, administrative or legislative office of the state, a state agency or a department, institution, bureau, board, commission, authority or official of the state, including a committee of, or created by, such an office, agency, department, institution, bureau, board, commission, authority or official, and also including any judicial office, official or body or committee thereof but only in respect to its or their administrative functions, shall not exceed twenty-five cents per page; and

(2) By all other public agencies, as defined in section 1-200, as amended, shall not exceed fifty cents per page. If any copy provided in accordance with said Freedom of Information Act requires a transcription, or if any person applies for a transcription of a public record, the fee for such transcription shall not exceed the cost thereof to the public agency.

(b) The fee for any copy provided in accordance with subsection (a) of section 1-211 shall not exceed the cost thereof to the public agency. In determining such costs for a copy, other than for a printout which exists at the time that the agency responds to the request for such copy, an agency may include only:

(1) An amount equal to the hourly salary attributed to all agency employees engaged in providing the requested computer-stored public record, including their time performing the formatting or programming functions necessary to provide the copy as requested, but not including search or retrieval costs except as provided in subdivision (4) of this subsection;

(2) An amount equal to the cost to the agency of engaging an outside professional electronic copying service to provide such copying services, if such service is necessary to provide the copying as requested;

(3) The actual cost of the storage devices or media provided to the person making the request in complying with such request; and

(4) The computer time charges incurred by the agency in providing the requested computer-stored public record where another agency or contractor provides the agency with computer storage and retrieval services. Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, the fee for any copy of the names of registered voters shall not exceed three cents per name delivered or the cost thereof to the public agency, as determined pursuant to this subsection, whichever is less. The Department of Information Technology shall monitor the calculation of the fees charged for copies of computer-stored public records to ensure that such fees are reasonable and consistent among agencies.

(c) A public agency may require the prepayment of any fee required or permitted under the Freedom of Information Act if such fee is estimated to be ten dollars or more. The sales tax provided in chapter 219 shall not be imposed upon any transaction for which a fee is required or permissible under this section or section 1-227.

(d) The public agency shall waive any fee provided for in this section when:

(1) The person requesting the records is an indigent individual;

(2) The records located are determined by the public agency to be exempt from disclosure under subsection (b) of section 1-210, as amended; [or]

(3) In its judgment, compliance with the applicant's request benefits the general welfare; or

(4) The person requesting the record is an elected official of a political subdivision of the state and the official (A) obtains the record from an agency of the political subdivision in which the official serves, and (B) certifies that the record pertains to the official's duties.

(e) Except as otherwise provided by law, the fee for any person who has the custody of any public records or files for certifying any copy of such records or files, or certifying to any fact appearing therefrom, shall be for the first page of such certificate, or copy and certificate, one dollar; and for each additional page, fifty cents. For the purpose of computing such fee, such copy and certificate shall be deemed to be one continuous instrument.

(f) The Secretary of the State, after consulting with the chairperson of the Freedom of Information Commission, the Commissioner of Correction and a representative of the Judicial Department, shall propose a fee structure for copies of public records provided to an inmate, as defined in section 18-84, in accordance with subsection (a) of this section. The Secretary of the State shall submit such proposed fee structure to the joint standing committee of the General Assembly having cognizance of matters relating to government administration, not later than January 15, 2000.

(g) Any individual may copy a public record through the use of a hand-held scanner. A public agency may establish a fee structure not to exceed ten dollars for an individual to pay each time the individual copies records at the agency with a hand-held scanner. As used in this section, "hand-held scanner" means a battery operated electronic scanning device the use of which (1) leaves no mark or impression on the public record, and (2) does not unreasonably interfere with the operation of the public agency.

Sec. 4. Section 19a-411 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective October 1, 2002):

(a) The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner shall keep full and complete records properly indexed, giving the name, if known, of every person whose death is investigated, the place where the body was found, the date, cause and manner of death and containing all other relevant information concerning the death and a copy of the death certificate. The full report and detailed findings of the autopsy and toxicological and other scientific investigation, if any, shall be a part of the record in each case. The office shall promptly notify the state's attorney having jurisdiction of such death and deliver to [him] the state's attorney copies of all pertinent records relating to every death in which further investigation may be advisable. Any state's attorney, chief of police or other law enforcement official may, upon request, secure copies of such records or other information deemed necessary by [him to] such official for the performance of his or her official duties.

(b) The report of examinations conducted by the Chief Medical Examiner, Deputy Chief Medical Examiner, an associate medical examiner or an authorized assistant medical examiner, and of the autopsy and other scientific findings may be made available to the public only through the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and in accordance with this section, section 1-210, as amended, and the regulations of the commission. Any person may obtain copies of such records upon such conditions and payment of such fees as may be prescribed by the commission, [provided] except that no person with a legitimate interest [therein] in the records shall be denied access to such records, and no person may be denied access to records concerning a person in the custody of the state at the time of death. As used in this section, a "person in the custody of the state" is a person committed to the custody of (1) the Commissioner of Correction for confinement in a correctional institution or facility or a community residence, (2) the Commissioner of Children and Families, or (3) the Commissioner of Mental Retardation.

(c) Upon application by the Chief Medical Examiner or state's attorney to the superior court for the judicial district in which the death occurred, or to any judge of the superior court in such judicial district when said court is not then sitting, said court or such judge may limit such disclosure to the extent that there is a showing by the Chief Medical Examiner or state's attorney of compelling public interest against disclosure of any particular document or documents. Public authorities, professional, medical, legal or scientific bodies or universities or similar research bodies may, in the discretion of the commission, have access to all records upon such conditions and payment of such fees as may be prescribed by the commission. Where such information is made available for scientific or research purposes, such conditions shall include a requirement that the identity of the deceased persons shall remain confidential and shall not be published.

Sec. 5. Section 7-19 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective January 1, 2003):

Each town clerk may, unless otherwise provided by charter or ordinance, appoint [not more than three] assistant town clerks, who, [having been approved by one of the selectman and] having taken the oath provided for town clerks, shall, in the absence or inability of the town clerk, have all [his] the powers and perform all [his] the duties of the town clerk. Within ten days after a town clerk appoints an assistant town clerk, the town clerk shall file a notice of such appointment with the Secretary of the State, indicating the name and address of the person appointed, the date and method of such appointment and the law under which the appointment was made. Within ten days after a vacancy occurs in the office of assistant town clerk, the town clerk shall notify the Secretary of the State of such vacancy.

Sec. 6. Section 7-38 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective January 1, 2003):

The town clerk of any town who is, ex officio, registrar of vital statistics in such town, and the registrar of vital statistics of any town who is elected under a special law or otherwise appointed pursuant to law, may, unless otherwise provided by charter or ordinance, [with the approval of the selectmen,] appoint in writing suitable persons, not exceeding four in number, as assistant registrars of vital statistics, who, on being sworn, shall have the powers and perform the duties of such registrar during the time for which they are appointed, not extending beyond the term of office of such registrar. Within ten days after a town clerk or registrar of vital statistics appoints an assistant registrar of vital statistics, the town clerk or registrar of vital statistics shall file a notice of such appointment with the Secretary of the State, indicating the name and address of the person appointed, the date and method of such appointment and the law under which the appointment was made. Within ten days after a vacancy occurs in the office of assistant registrar of vital statistics, the town clerk or registrar of vital statistics shall notify the Secretary of the State of such vacancy.

Sec. 7. Section 21-37 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective October 1, 2002):

Any town may make reasonable ordinances with reference to the vending or hawking upon its public streets or upon any state highway, except limited access highways, within such town or any land abutting such streets or highways of any goods, wares or other merchandise at public or private sale or auction, or to the vending or peddling of such articles from house to house within its limits, including the imposition of a fee, not exceeding two hundred dollars a year, applicable with respect to any person engaged in such vending, hawking or peddling, for the privilege of so vending, hawking or peddling such merchandise. Any ordinance adopted pursuant to this section which requires a permit may require that no such permit shall be issued to any person who has not obtained a permit to engage in or transact business as a seller within the state in accordance with section 12-409 and shall require that any permit issued pursuant to such ordinance shall be conspicuously displayed at the place the activities are undertaken. Such ordinances may provide that the authority issuing such permit may waive the permit fee for a nonprofit organization exempt from federal taxation by Section 501 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, or any subsequent corresponding internal revenue code of the United States, as from time to time amended, or a charitable organization. No town shall require a permit fee from any resident of this state who has resided within the state for a period of two years next preceding the date of application for such permit, who is (1) a veteran who served in time of war, as defined in section 27-103, (2) a hawker or peddler as defined in section 21-36, and (3) a principal pursuant to section 21-36. This section shall not apply to sales by farmers and gardeners of the produce of their farms, gardens and greenhouses, including fruit, vegetables and flowers, or to the sale, distribution and delivery of milk, teas, coffees, spices, groceries, meats and bakery goods, to sales on approval, to conditional sales of merchandise, or to the taking of orders for merchandise for future delivery when full payment is not required at the time of solicitation. Nothing in this section shall be construed to limit in any manner the Commissioner of Transportation's statutory authority concerning state highways. Nothing in this section shall be construed as empowering any municipality to prohibit, regulate, control or impose a fee on any person operating any business on any state highway or land abutting any state highway pursuant to a contract with the state.

Sec. 8. Section 12-182 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective October 1, 2002):

Whenever used in sections 12-182 to 12-194, inclusive, as amended by this act, "municipality" has the meaning given it in section 12-141 and "tax" includes each property tax or assessment and each installment and part thereof due a municipality, with any interest or other lawful charges incident thereto. In addition to other remedies provided by law, the tax collector of any municipality may bring in its name an action in the nature of an action in rem to foreclose a tax lien or liens on real estate the fair market value of which, in his judgment, is less than the total of the amounts due upon the tax liens and other encumbrances upon the property so liened and is not more than [fifty] one hundred thousand dollars with respect to any one parcel. No judgment shall be rendered in such proceeding for the recovery of a personal judgment against the owner of the property subject to such lien or liens or any person having an interest therein.

Sec. 9. Section 12-183 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective October 1, 2002):

The tax collector may, by his attorney, not more than [once] twice in each calendar year, file in the office of the clerk of the superior court for the judicial district in which the property is situated, a petition in the name of the municipality for the foreclosure of any tax lien or liens on the respective properties so liened, and may include in one petition any number of such properties, each of which shall be numbered serially. Such petition shall be addressed to the court, as above stated, and shall be substantially in the following form: "The . . . . of . . . . , acting by its tax collector hereunto subscribing, herewith submits a list of properties located in the . . . . of . . . . upon which are liens for unpaid taxes and states that in his judgment the fair market value of each of such properties is not more than [fifty] one hundred thousand dollars and such value is less than the total amount due upon tax liens and other encumbrances thereon. " A list of the various parcels of property sought to be foreclosed shall follow, containing, as to each parcel, the following information: (a) A description sufficient to identify each parcel affected by any such tax lien. The latest description of such parcel as appears of record shall be considered a sufficient description and, in all cases in which such parcel can be further identified by a known street address, such address shall be included in the description; (b) the name, residence and, if known, the address of the owner or owners of such parcel as they appear on the most recent assessment list of the taxing district wherein such property is located; (c) the principal of such tax due thereon, the amount of which, with interest, if any, and the fees and other charges, is secured by such lien and the date or dates when the principal of such tax becomes due; (d) the name, residence and, if known, the address, of each present record holder of any interest in, or encumbrance on, such liened property and the nature and amount thereof, as disclosed by the land records; (e) the last day of the period during which such property may be redeemed, which shall be the last day of the fourth month after the month in which the list is filed in court. Such petition shall be verified by the oath of the tax collector that the information contained therein is true to the best of his knowledge and belief.

Sec. 10. Section 12-185 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective October 1, 2002):

If the report of the appraisers shows that the fair market value of any parcel of property listed in such petition is greater than the total of the amounts due upon the tax lien or liens and the recorded principal amounts of all other encumbrances thereon or is more than [fifty] one hundred thousand dollars, the clerk shall write the word "Withdrawn" opposite the item of property on the list and thereafter such property shall not be within the scope of the proceeding.

Sec. 11. Subsections (a) and (b) of section 12-81f of the general statutes are repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective July 1, 2002):

(a) Any municipality, upon approval by its legislative body, may provide that any veteran entitled to an exemption from property tax in accordance with subdivision (19) of section 12-81 shall be entitled to an additional exemption applicable to the assessed value of property up to the amount of [one] ten thousand dollars, provided such veteran's qualifying income does not exceed the applicable maximum amount as provided under section 12-81l.

(b) Any municipality, upon approval by its legislative body, may provide that any veteran's surviving spouse entitled to an exemption from property tax in accordance with subdivision (22) of section 12-81 shall be entitled to an additional exemption applicable to the assessed value of property up to the amount of [one] ten thousand dollars, provided such surviving spouse's qualifying income does not exceed the maximum amount applicable to an unmarried person as provided under section 12-81l.

Approved June 13, 2002