Proposed bill could limit information you can access through Kentucky open records law

BR-821 proposes changes to Kentucky Open Records Act

PADUCAH — Tuesday was the first day of Kentucky’s legislative session, and there’s already back and forth over a proposed bill.

Republican Sen. Danny Carroll prefiled the bill before the session started. It proposes more exemptions for Kentucky’s open records act, meaning less information available to everyone. Specifically, the 15-page bill could make it harder to get information about people in power.

Carroll represents parts of west Kentucky. He is a former police officer. He said the bill aims to protect the private information of police officers, judges, corrections workers, and others.

“We’ve had a lot of issues in the past years, even from the time when I was a police officer — concerns about my personal information being released,” Carroll said.

Senator Danny Carroll (R)

The bill would exempt a list of government employees from the open records act, meaning it would be harder to find out about things such as official misconduct, harder to get police video or photos, and harder to get information about what’s happening inside our jails.

Public records requests can often take weeks or even months to come back, and there are already several exemptions in the current law. Personal information is often redacted under the current exemption that protects invasion of privacy for all people, not just public employees.

Michael Abate, lawyer for Kentucky Press Association

Michael Abate is a lawyer for Kentucky Press Association. He said he believes the new exemptions would not help the public. “A whole range of different types of information would never be available anymore under this law,” he said. KPA is against this bill. You can read their statement they released on Tuesday addressing their concerns here.

“People who have real power to affect the lives of citizens who would now be beyond the reach of public scrutiny if this law passes,” Abate said.

“There are some sections in here that cause some concerns with folks,” Carroll said. “That’s something we will look at.” Carroll said the bill is not a final draft, but it’s already getting a lot of attention.

The bill also includes a section where people who work for an exempted government agency could be fined if they tell information that is protected.

Carroll tells WPSD that the bill was brought to him by a Secret Service agent and a Kentucky Homeland Security officer. He said his next step is to meet with stakeholders and narrow the focus of the bill.

You can read the entire bill here.