Earlier this week, KPA issued a statement, an explanation of an amendment given to the State Senate office that would address the concern on our behalf of the change in the Open Records Law and for legislators, let them know personal communications are not subject to the Open Records law.
And an update to this email. Thursday afternoon House Bill 302 with our amended language was approved by the Senate on a 23-9 vote. Eight of the nine “no” votes were Democrats with Sen. Tom Buford voting no from the GOP side. It’s been returned to the House to request the lower chamber concur with the changes.
Here is the statement issued by KPA, in an email written and sent by me to all editors and all KPA Board members:
I understand there have been emails sent and phone calls received this morning that the Senate leadership has received language for House Bill 302 and is considering using it in place of the language offered last week by Sen. Damon Thayer that we found objectionable.
I believe most all of you are aware of what took place last week when the amended language to House Bill 302 was made public. It resulted in news stories and editorials across the state. And that afternoon, resulted in lectures to the press by Senator Stivers and Senator Thayer. I hope you were able to view the video of those floor speeches in last Friday’s On Second Thought.
Unfortunately, comments continued Thursday and then over the weekend to the Free Conference Committee on the state budget with comments from legislators, asking if a colleague was using “your private cell phone to send emails or texts, you better be careful.”
The bill was not withdrawn fully, only withdrawn (the term President Stivers used was ‘pulled’) from the Consent Calendar. With that, it could be brought back for consideration on the Regular Orders of the Day by the Senate.
With the possibility that HB 302 with the objectionable language could come back up before the end of the session, I believed we needed to show a good faith effort to get the language out and language inserted that would be acceptable to KPA. I talked with our general counsels and had language drafted. Short and to the point. See the full language below. this language was given to the Senate’s general counsel yesterday and I was informed today, it will replace the objectionable language that was in HB302.
While it’s not perfect perhaps, the language given to Senate leadership will address the issue. The offer from the Senate is to meet during the interim and have a full discussion about this issue and others related to Open Meetings/Open Records. The Senate is including language that the Interim Joint Committee on State and Local Government will discuss this issue with KPA and media representatives during an interim meeting and develop language.
What we offered is an exemption/exception to the Ooen Records law that simply says, “Communications of a purely personal nature unrelated to any government function.” Some in the legislature interpreted our opposition to HB302 that we wanted records of phone calls to their spouse (“When are you coming home from supper and did you do anything interesting in the legislature today?”) to “I’m in public relations and sometimes I have clients contact me on my private cell phone, that I fully pay for, while I’m here on the Senate floor and I should have a right to speak to that client without the press being nosy and wanting a record of that text, email or phone call.” Those are not exaggerations but an accurate description of some of the comments.
This can be considered a temporary fix to get us into further discussions during the interim. What we are preventing by offering language is that they will not consider HB 302 as presented last week with the objectionable language.
They are in the final days of the 2018 session so time is running out on doing very much. But HB 302 has had its two readings in the Senate and could come up for a vote, with our compromise language, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday of this week, then head back to the House to concur in the changes made.