FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky Republicans are pushing forward with a significant change to the state's open records law.
The biggest change included in House Bill 312 would add a residency requirement to anyone interested in filing a records request.
What You Need To Know
- HB 312 would add residency requirement to anyone interested in filing a records request
- Supporters say the government is overburdened with requests for records
- A new version of the bill unveiled in a Senate committee broadens the definition of a resident
- It also doesn’t require the use of a special request form anymore, and it allows national news organizations to file requests
Supporters, including sponsoring Rep. Bart Rowland (R-Tompkinsville), say the government is overburdened with requests for records.
“It attempts to address the enormous amounts of public records our public agencies are receiving from out-of-state groups,” Rowland said.
A new version of the bill unveiled in a Senate committee makes a few key changes to the original proposal, like broadening the definition of a resident to someone who works or has property in Kentucky.
It also doesn’t require the use of a special request form anymore, and it allows national news organizations to file requests.
J.D. Chaney with the Kentucky League of Cities says the new version will still help government agencies.
“It’s been a good process, I think, discussing with senators as we’ve worked on this bill,” Chaney said. “It still accomplishes our main objective.”
House Bill 312 was introduced late last month after the deadline to file new bills. Republican lawmakers gutted the original bill, which served no real legislative purpose, replaced it with the new open records language, and passed it in the House within 24 hours of the bill first becoming public.
Many open government and press organizations worry it will close off access to public records.
“The good news is, and I’m very happy to say, that we think this revised bill is a substantially better bill,” said Amye Bensenhaver with the Kentucky Open Government Coalition. “We do have continuing concerns.”
Bensenhaver says the residency requirement will be difficult to implement.
“I don’t think it’s going to achieve the desired goal,” Bensenhaver said. “I don’t think it’s going to relieve public agencies of the burdens they already have. In fact, it may impose additional burdens on public agencies.”
Two Senators voted against it in committee: Senate Minority Floor Leader Morgan McGarvey (D-Louisville) and Sen. Adrienne Southworth (R-Lawrenceburg).
Southworth believes the section dealing with records involving state lawmakers is still too restrictive.
“So I would say if we go back to the same process that everyone else uses in other states and our other two branches of government, everything is open unless it’s confidential, personal in nature, you know, whatever like that,” Southworth said.
Lawmakers say the bill will likely change a bit more before receiving a vote on the Senate floor, which could happen as early as Thursday.
Due to changes made in the Senate, the bill would have to be approved by the House again before heading to the governor’s desk.