Kentucky Politics

The state House of Representatives passed a bill Friday that would bar people, news outlets and other entities outside the commonwealth from making open records requests for Kentucky records.

House Bill 312 also expands the legislature’s exemptions from the open records act and requires all requests to be submitted on a standardized form created by the attorney general’s office.

Rep. Jason Petrie, a Republican from Elkton, said the proposal would streamline records requests, which he called a “burdensome churn of data.”

“We placed a burden many years ago upon ourselves, the government — and the taxpayers have supported — to supply information, but this simply tries to rein in what has tilted too far on the pendulum,” Petrie said.

The measure was rushed to passage in the House. Until Thursday, the bill dealt with adding gender-neutral language to the state’s bank examiner law.

But during a committee hearing, the bill was gutted and replaced with language making changes to Kentucky’s open records laws.

The measure makes the Legislative Research Commission the final authority on determining which legislative documents are subject to disclosure, removing Franklin Circuit Court as the venue to appeal records decisions.

The LRC is the legislature’s administrative arm and is headed up by 16 lawmakers from both parties and legislative chambers.

Rep. Jason Nemes, a Republican from Louisville, said the bill would protect private information of citizens who reach out to their representatives.

“We don’t want our citizens to be chilled to say ‘I’d say this, but I’m worried about repercussions.’ So we must protect those communications, that’s what we’re trying to do here,” Nemes said.

Lawmakers’ communications are already exempted from Kentucky open records law.

The Kentucky Press Association is “neutral” on the bill after initially lobbying against it to remove provisions like a change in what counts as a “preliminary document” and is thus exempt from disclosure.

KPA executive director David Thompson says the bill “isn’t as bad as everybody is trying to make it.

“It might be a little more burdensome on some, but there are ways around it. If you’ve got a connection to another media outlet and you’re an out-of-state media, you’re still going to be able to get the record,” Thompson said.

Out-of-state entities can still get access to Kentucky records if they work with in-state people and entities, or are affiliated with one.

Rep. Patti Minter, a Democrat from Bowling Green, voted against the bill.

“There are so many stories that our free press, that we cherish in this country, will not be able to tell if this law is enacted,” Minter said.

The state Senate will now consider the measure.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.