Less than a week away to Sunshine Week , a surprise attack on transparency in Kentucky is threatening to change the state’s Open Records Act. On February 28, Rep. Johnny Bell sponsored HB 496 -- a bill that will -- if approved, exclude private companies who have at least 25 percent of their revenue coming from public projects -- from Kentucky’s open records requests.
John Cheves of the Lexington Herald-Leader talked to Rep. Bell who assured him that he “respects the public’s right to know”. But it’s interesting that the same Representative sided with private companies in construction, highway building, engineering and architecture who are complaining about the time and money they waste on legal fees associated with public records requests.
Bluegrass Institute’s Logan Morford is reminding Rep. Bell and colleagues who they represent and that it -- the American public, including citizens seeking “sunshine” in Kentucky:
- Taxpayer money comes with strings attached whether it is spent by government or with private industry. Private companies take public money with this understanding. If you don’t want to be subject to open records laws, don’t take public money.
- Quasi-government agencies like the Kentucky League of Cities would still be subject to existing transparency laws. Government cannot choose winners and losers. In this respect they would be choosing which recipients of taxpayer money are to be held accountable and which are not. That is unacceptable.
- The legal fees that are too burdensome only come into play in one scenario: The records request is challenged. Costly and burdensome legal fees can be avoided by simply turning over records related to taxpayer money.
HB 496 is scheduled for a hearing this Thursday before the House State Government Committee. Here is to hoping all involved in voting on this bill will seriously consider the public’s right to know what their government is doing.