As we reported in a story last week, HB302 was amended to make governement business done on private devices or accounts exempt from open records requests. Obviously, this change would gut our state’s open records laws, and would make it even harder to guarantee transparency in our state government.
In response, Jim Waters of the Bluegrass Institute and Bruce Maples of Forward Kentucky discussed issuing a joint statement condemning HB302 as written. Each of them also contacted other groups to see if they would like to co-sponsor the statement.
Even though HB302 was pulled from the floor for “rework,” both organizations decided to go ahead with their statement, adding the other groups that had agreed to co-sponsor. Thus, the following statement was issued today.
Statement regarding House Bill 302
The following organizations oppose a proposed amendment to House Bill 302 redefining “public record” in Kentucky’s Open Records Act in a manner which gravely threatens open and accountable government.
The proposed amendment excludes from the current definition of what constitutes a public record “any electronic communications, including without limitation, calls, text messages, or electronic mail contained in, sent, or received using a private cell phone or other private electronic device that is paid for with private funds or contained in, sent, or received using a nongovernment electronic mail account.”
This proposal eviscerates the commonwealth’s open records and meetings laws by authorizing public officials and employees to avoid accountability and transparency by using their private electronic devices to communicate about the public’s business.
In recent years, email has become the preferred method of communication used by public officials and employees and represents a substantial amount of the public record memorializing the transaction of the public’s business.
If HB 302 is enacted, what has until now been a legally unsupportable and judicially untested interpretation of the Open Records Act in a decision wrongly issued by the Kentucky Attorney General will be codified into statute and allow public officials and employees to transact public business secretly and destroy any record of such transactions at will. Kentucky would have the dubious distinction of being one of the few states – if not the only state – codifying the right of a public official to conduct public business in secret.
For these reasons, the following organizations vigorously oppose passage of HB 302 with Committee Substitutes 1 and 2.
- Forward Kentucky
- Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions
- The ACLU of Kentucky
- Bluegrass Activist Alliance
- United Kentucky Tea Party of Kentucky
- Indivisible Kentucky
- Indivisible NKY District 4
- Central Kentucky Tea Party Patriots