As the final hours of the 2021 General Assembly were winding down, Sen. Danny Carroll rose to have a Senate Resolution read in memory of the late Senator Albert Jones. Carroll went on and on about Senator Jones and noted his contributions to Paducah, to the Commonwealth of Kentucky and to the United States.
He mentioned several projects and issues Senator Jones was involved in during his committed public service career. And he noted how much he had learned from Senator Jones while the late McCracken County Democrat served as mayor of Paducah. But there’s one big contribution Senator Jones made to the entire commonwealth that went unmentioned.
And it’s ironic it happened on the day he had the citation read.
Just an hour earlier, Senator Carroll stood to ask the Senate to accept the changes to his Senate Bill 48, changes made by fellow Republican and retired police officer John Blanton over in the House. Those changes made a halfway acceptable piece of legislation in Carroll’s SB48 into one of the worst bills considered this session. It made SB48 perhaps unconstitutional but abiding by the constitution doesn’t seem to matter when this legislature gets together.
By the time Carroll accepted the changes to the bill, it turned Open Records upside down. It would take one of the nation’s strongest Open Records Laws into one that was just ho hum.
So what did Carroll not mention in his tribute?
Senator Albert Jones served as a co-chair of a Legislative Task Force assigned with the task of rewriting the Kentucky Open Records Law and Open Meetings Law. He and the late Rep. William Donnermeyer took nearly two years of monthly task force meetings to go over nearly every word of the two laws and listening to the changes that needed to be made. Those changes were led by the Kentucky Press Association and among the task force members were Steve Lowery, Stan Macdonald, and KPA General Counsel Jon Fleischaker.
When the task force began, in July 1990, Kentucky’s open government laws were rated in the mid 20s of all the states. 23rd best is what I saw in one study.
By the time the task force finished its two-year work and had the new laws signed by the Governor, those same ratings showed Kentucky’s Open Meetings and Open Records laws to be among the top five in the country. Some would argue they are the best in the U.S.
Senator Carroll failed to mention that part about Senator Jones, that Senator Jones co-sponsored the rewrite of the state’s Open Records and Open Meetings laws and I would imagine if the late senator had listened to Carroll’s tributes, he would have reminded him about what Open Government is all about. He was a firm believer, supporter of Open Meetings and Open Records and pushed through what the cities and counties and universities fought so hard to keep from becoming law.
Without mentioning any specific legislation, Senator Carroll acknowledged Senator Jones was “wrote several pieces of legislation that stand as law to this day; and…”
How ironic for him to say “stand as law to this day.” For shortly before making that statement on the Senate floor, Carroll let stand changes to his Senate Bill 48 that were a disaster to the Open Records Law.