Legislative sessions in most states are winding down, with sessions in Texas and South Carolina ending on May 31 and June 1. Pending clean bills in those two states are now considered dead. Connecticut faces the next critical deadline, with a clean bill pending and the legislature adjourning on June 7. More information and analysis about current bills and the 2017-2018 legislative session is also available on Bastard Nation.
Connecticut: Senate Bill 977. Access Connecticut continues on a final push to pass a clean OBC access bill. The bill simply removes a date-based restriction from current law, restoring equal OBC access for all adult adoptees. This bill may come up for vote any day, with the Connecticut legislature adjourning on June 7.
Massachusetts: H.1163/S.1195. This literally is a fourteen-word bill, as in strike out the following words from the current Massachusetts statute: “on or before July 17, 1974” and “on or after January 1, 2008.” That’s it. With fourteen words—most of those being “or” or “on”— it assures equality for all adult adoptees in Massachusetts. A joint committee hearing on the bills occurred on May 16, 2017. Massachusetts has a two-year legislative calendar beginning in odd years, so the bills are still in the early part of the legislative process.
New York: A6821A/S5169A. Competing clean and dirty bills are in both chambers of the New York legislature. While a badly restrictive bill has received a hearing in the New York Assembly, the clean bills (A6821A and S5169A) are still considered pending in committees.
North Carolina: House Bill 823. This is a constituent-driven bill that a 40+ year-old adoptee sought from a North Carolina legislator. The bill requires an adoptee to be 40 years old AND prove the identity of birth parents before the OBC is released. It passed the North Carolina House unanimously (113-0) in April and is now in committee in the Senate. The North Carolina legislature adjourns on July 1.
Florida: HB257. This was a clean bill with not much else except access to the OBC upon reaching the age of 18. It did not receive a hearing in committee and is now considered dead.
Iowa: HF 119. Another clean bill with a genuine contact preference form. Unfortunately, it suffered the same fate as others: no committee hearing, thus no mas. I’m sure we’ll see this one again.
Minnesota: SF1284. Minnesota, the state that introduced sealed records 100 years ago, is one of the more complicated OBC access states, with date-based access, disclosure vetoes, zombie vetoes, and potential court involvement at the end. Advocates have been trying to reform Minnesota law for years—at least to provide due process for those who are denied access—but advocates have been consistently stymied by Minnesota’s powerful pro-life lobby. It happened again this session, with the bill dying in committee. Look for 2018 for any real future action.
Mississippi: Senate Bill 2690. North Carolina legislators are apparently not the only misguided folks who believe that 40-year-olds are suddenly mature enough to get their original birth certificates. SB2690, introduced in January, would have allowed release of an original birth certificate forty years after it was sealed. The bill, however, died early in committee.
South Carolina: H.3775. This bill stalled in committee and never moved forward. It was an unrestricted OBC access bill with a genuine contact preference form. Another South Carolina bill expanded the list of folks who may obtain identifying information from public agency adoption records, providing access to birth grandparents and siblings so long as there is consent of the adoptee. That bill passed both houses and was signed by South Carolina’s governor on May 19.
Texas: Senate Bill 329. Senate Bill 329, which provided unrestricted access to the OBC and included a genuine contact preference form, did not come up for a senate vote in time for overall passage this session. The next session is in 2019.
West Virginia: Senate Bill 53. This was not specifically an OBC access bill. The bill attempted to provide consent-based access to adoption records, which does not include the OBC. The bill failed to receive any action before the legislature adjourned in early April.
Three states, Indiana, Missouri, and Pennsylvania, are currently implementing new OBC access laws. Pennsylvania’s new law goes into effect November 3, 2017. Indiana’s goes into full effect in July 2018, while Missouri’s law is effective for all adoptees beginning January 1, 2018. Each of these new laws, though, contain significant restrictions, including redaction, corrupt contact preference forms, disclosure vetoes, and zombie vetoes. Recently, Missouri also approved new implementing regulations that require redaction of an OBC even if the birth parent desires contact but requests it through a third party. Pennsylvania also has a requirement that the adoptee be a high school graduate or “legally withdrawn” from school. New forms for use in obtaining an OBC under Pennsylvania’s law should be released by the state no later than June 1.
Arkansas: House Bill 1636. Arkansas passed a conditionally restrictive OBC access bill that provides access to the OBC, subject to disclosure vetoes. It also has a provision that could be interpreted as a “contact veto,” which could potentially be used to criminalize contact by an adoptee if the birth parent indicates no contact is desired. The law goes into effect in 2018. More information, including the law’s text, is available on our Arkansas OBC page.