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The Rhode Island House of Representatives has approved a bill that would shield climate scientists and other university researchers from public records requests.

The House voted 58-6 to pass the bill Tuesday.

Democratic House Judiciary Chairman Cale Keable says the legislation is meant to help guarantee academic freedom, especially for those whose study of climate change has been impeded by records requests from opponents of the research.

It would exempt researchers at state institutions from having to disclose preliminary drafts, notes and working papers.

Republican Rep. Mike Chippendale, who voted against it, says it's an affront to transparency.

University of Rhode Island professors backed the bill. Open government groups didn't object, arguing it merely adds clarity to an existing exemption in the law.

The bill now moves to the state Senate.

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