Urgent action needed – Attack on open records just got worse Skip to content

Urgent action needed – Attack on open records just got worse

Our rulers in Frankfort are determined to increase the secrecy and thwart any sunlight.

The attacks on Kentucky’s open records laws just keep on coming.

And believe it or not, the latest attack just got even worse.

HB 509 was filed, according to its sponsor, to force all government personnel (including legislators) to be given a government email address, through which they would be instructed to conduct all their government business. If the bill had stopped there, it actually would have been an improvement.

But, the original bill contained a giant loophole: any communications done on a private/personal device were not accessible through an open records request. So, all a legislator had to do to keep their work a secret was do it all on their personal cell phone.

Open records advocates attacked the loophole in editorial after editorial, and in testimony before legislative committees. To no avail; the loophole remained.

But now in the latest twist (of the knife), an amendment would drastically narrow the definition of “public agency,” thus making even more records hidden from the public.

As the Kentucky Press Association notes in its letter of opposition:

Currently, any entity whose members were appointed by a public official or agency would be subject to the ORA, even if it was not a governmental entity. So are entities that receive at least 25% of their funding from state or local governments. Also included are entities created by state statute, and public-private partnerships.

Under the new bill, however, the public would lose access to records of dozens of agencies that exercise the public’s powers even though they are not themselves “governmental entities.” This includes, but is not limited to, things like economic development authorities, water utility districts, non-profits with boards appointed by the Governor or legislators, university foundations, community mental health centers, agency advisory boards, public-private partnerships, and many more. These entities affect the lives of millions of Kentuckians daily, but now their records will be off limits. That is just wrong.

The desire of our elected officials to keep their work and their words hidden from the public is both insulting and destructive. As we have seen time and again, people who want to hide things usually have a (bad) reason for doing so. And, as we have also seen time and again, “sunlight is the best disinfectant.”

Unfortunately, our Republican rulers in Frankfort are determined to keep more and more of their work hidden from us, the lowly commoners. As Beau of the Fifth Column says regularly, “They don’t want to represent; they want to rule. Your job is to know your place, and stay in your place.”

Apparently, this bill is on the fast track. So, if you agree about the need for more sunlight, not less, then call the comment line at 1-800-372-7181 and leave a message all senators to vote NO on HB 509.

Maybe we can stop them before they completely destroy our open records laws.

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Bruce Maples

Bruce Maples has been involved in politics and activism since 2004, when he became active in the Kerry Kentucky movement. (Read the rest of his bio on the Bruce Maples Bio page in the bottom nav bar.)

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