Synopsis on House Bill 373 sets off an alarm

(Just announced: The House of Representatives has assigned House Bill 373 to the House Judiciary Committee.)

Each piece of legislation filed in the General Assembly comes with a synopsis of the bill, published on the Legislative Research Commission’s website along with a copy of the bill. It gives everyone an idea of what the bill concerns and lists the Kentucky Revised Statutes included in the legislation.

Scanning the synopsis gives us an overview of the bill and usually lets us know if it has language to be concerned with.

Thursday, I sent a copy of House Bill 373 to all editors, our attorneys and lobbyists along with a copy of the synopsis as published in the Legislative Record. I mentioned that KPA is supporting HB 373 because it contains language we gave the League of Cities and the Police Chiefs Association. I admit I did not read the synopsis because I knew what the bill was about.

Within a couple of minutes, Joel Christopher, executive editor of the Courier Journal and a KPA Board member, questioned language in the synopsis that read:

require that any person or agency that wishes to disclose, publicly display, or duplicate body-worn camera recordings must first give notice to any non-law enforcement agency or person depicted in the recording;

Obviously, that wasn’t favorable language. I searched the bill three times, told Joel the statements are not included in the bill anywhere and I’m not sure where that language came from. But I would check.

I asked the League of Cities for an explanation because nothing like that statement is contained in HB 373 and I wanted to make sure the version of HB 373 was in full disclosure, that there was nothing hidden that would call for that statement to be made.

Top Shelf Lobby’s Danny Slaton, one of our lobbyists, swung into action, doing his best investigative work. He found the problem and the result is, there’s nothing to be concerned with because that language is not included.

What Danny discovered is that the LRC used the synopsis from the bills filed in 2016 and 2017 without checking to see if any changes had been made in the 2018 version. The current HB 373 contained a lot of new language, most of it centering on KPA’s own language that specifies release of the police body cam footage would be governed by the Open Records law. The two previous sessions, KPA opposed the police body cam bills because there was a question whether the footage would be available until the Open Records law. And obviously because the previous versions would have required notification to all non-law enforcement groups and persons depicted in the recording.

The lesson is you can read any synopsis but don’t trust its accuracy without reading the bill as well.

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