Changes on the horizon for Public Records Law

One would extend to five days agency’s time frame to respond to request; residency to request a record will be required but with news organization exemption; KPA argued against other changes

Expect to hear about some changes in Kentucky’s Open Records Law in the very near future. With the deadline approaching for introduction of new House bills for the 2020 session, it’ll be much sooner than later.

The 2020 General Assembly calendar requires all House bills must be filed by Tuesday, March 3, and all Senate bills have a deadline of Wednesday, March 4, to be filed. Those dates are changes from the Regular Session calendar originally released. The Senate announced Wednesday that the calendar had been recalculated, resulting in one more day to file legislation for the 2020 session.

Rep. Jason Petrie, R-Elkton, has had legislation in the works for more than year that would make some changes. KPA and particularly general counsels Jon Fleischaker and Michael Abate have had several extended meetings with Representative Petrie and the changes he’s working on either have KPA’s support or we have no opposition.

The changes include “residency” in the Commonwealth to make a public records request; emailing requests for public records; agencies to develop a form that is to be completed to request a specific record; extending from three to five days the time frame that a public agency has to determine whether it will or will not comply with a request for records and notifying the requester of its decision within those five days; and specifies what public records are not available from the Legislative Research Commission or the Kentucky General Assembly. As for the residency, that’s defined as “an individual residing in the Commonwealth; a domestic business entity with a location in the Commonwealth; a foreign business entity registered with the Kentucky Secretary of State; or “a news-gathering organization as defined in KRS 189.635(8)(b) that has a location in the Commonwealth or is affiliated with another news-gathering organization that has a location in Kentucky.”

But it must be noted there were other legislative ideas that KPA fought successfully including a change in “preliminary investigations” and “attorney-client work products.” Neither will be in the final version or are not supposed to be. If that language does make it in, KPA will be fighting to get it removed.

Without an official version of the legislation, it’s hard to give the specific language for each of these revisions in the Open Records Law but that will be forthcoming after the bill is filed.

If it has been filed by today, we’ll share it with you. If not, it will have to be filed by Wednesday and we can share it then.

Representative Petrie has also filed House Bill 443 on Open Records but KPA is neutral on the language. Here’s a pdf version of that proposed legislation and a brief summary:

Summary:  Amend KRS 61.878, regarding public records to exclude from the Open Records Act client and case files maintained by the Department of Public Advocacy and the department’s contractors.

Access pdf copy of House Bill 443

Senator Buford files SB 217 concerning PSC-regulated utilities and Open Records

Wednesday afternoon, Sen. Tom Buford filed SB 217, another bill about Open Records. The summary of the bill is:

Amend KRS 61.870 to include a utility regulated by the Public Service Commission under the definition of a “public agency” for purposes of public records only; amend KRS 61.878 to provide that records of a utility relating to expenditure of funds paid for by its customers are public records.

We never like to see the Open Meetings or Open Records Law opened by legislation but we’ll monitor the bill closely — and any others concerning KRS 61 — to make sure no unfavorable changes are made.

If you want to read the bill, go to https://apps.legislature.ky.gov/record/20rs/sb217.html and click on Introduced beside Bill Documents.

New language to the law is in bold, Italic and underlined. The rest is existing language.

As the session nears the end, how does 2020 rank against other legislative sessions?

Looking at the numbers, you almost have to ask if Kentucky’s laws are so bad that a large number of bills are required each session. With Monday’s deadline for House bills, Tuesday’s or Wednesday’s deadline for Senate bills, we had 527 bills in the House already and 229 in the Senate by adjournment on Thursday. Bills Friday in this morning’s chamber proceedings have not yet been posted.

Those numbers pale in comparison to the session four years ago (2016) when 632 House bills were filed and 309 Senate bills. In the last decade, that’s the only time the Senate has surpassed the 300 mark. On the House side, there was one other 600-level reached with 615 in 2018.

We’ll know by Wednesday where 2020 ranks but it won’t be close to any marks of the last 10 years.

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