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Open Records changes approved after committee substitute removed

Kentucky’s Open Records law narrowly won approval

                                    capitol floor

(Story Courtesy of Kentucky Today)

FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) – A House bill that would make changes to Kentucky’s Open Records law narrowly won approval from a Senate committee on Wednesday, but not until a Senate committee substitute that had been adopted earlier was removed from the measure.

Rep. John Hodgson, R-Fisherville, is the sponsor of House Bill 509. During his testimony before the Senate State and Local Government Committee, he said, “Kentucky’s Open Records statutes were written in the 1970s, before anyone had really conceived of email or text messaging. As such, there is some modernization required.”

He told members the bill had three main components:

--Anyone working for a public agency or who is a board appointee, even an unpaid one, would have an official email account for them to do their official business.

--Those working for a public agency who conduct official business on personal accounts would be liable for discipline from their agency, or dismissal if they are board members.

--A public agency complying with both provisions listed above shall only be required to search for or produce to a requesting party electronic information or documents that are stored or contained in an agency-issued device or the agency-designated email account.

“Kentucky’s Open Records statutes were written in the 1970s, before anyone had really conceived of email or text messaging. As such, there is some modernization required,” he said.

Members of the panel adopted a committee substitute, prior to hearing from those who were against the measure.

That included the Kentucky Press Association (KPA), which was represented by their attorney Michael Abate. He testified under the committee substitute, “The governor and every connotational officer would be exempt from the Open Records Act.  Every elected mayor, every elected city council member, every elected school board member. If we delete them from the definition of a public agency, their records are not subject to inspection under the Open Records law.”

Abate said the KPA opposed every version of HB 509 starting with the original House one, but the committee substitute made it even worse. “This law doesn’t enhance transparency; it destroys it in a very un-American way, where the citizens of Kentucky will no longer have access to records that they’ve had for 40 years."

Others speaking in opposition to HB 509 included representatives of Americans for Prosperity and the League of Women Voters.

The committee members withdrew their motion to adopt the committee substitute, so it reverted to the original House version.

The vote was six in favor, three against and one member passed, so the bill heads to the Senate floor. 

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