Ala. bill to improve public records access passes committee

Ala. bill to improve public records access passes committee

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - A Senate judiciary committee passed a bill that is designed to improve public records law in Alabama.

The vote was 9-1 after the original version of Sen. Arthur Orr’s bill was amended Wednesday morning.

The state’s open records law is currently one of the weakest in the country. Senate Bill 165 would require the government to respond in 14 days and create a public access counselor who can grant extensions and rule on appeals as well as setting pay schedules for any open records costs.

Those who represent local governments have concerns about the bill.

“This legislation makes all communication between public officials and public employees with constituents and members of the public. It makes that a public record all communication, including emails,” said Sonny Brasfield of the Alabama Association of County Commissions.

Alabama Broadcaster Association President Sharon Tinsley said she feels they’ve made some progress with Wednesday’s vote.

“We’ve been at this effort for the last three years. I feel like we’ve made some progress today, with the favorable vote for the amended SB165 Open Records Act in the Senate Judiciary Committee. There are a lot of stakeholders on both sides of this issue, namely the record keepers and the people of Alabama to whom the records belong. We know it won’t be an easy task to bring about this much needed change to Alabama’s Open Records law, but it is something we must do. It’s only right. We are counting on all the interested parties to come to the table with the same goal in mind and that is improving access to the records that belong to the people. We are especially appreciative of Senator Orr’s work on this issue and appreciative of the committee chairman and committee members,” Tinsley said in a statement.

“This bill is about true government transparency. I am certain you value accountability, the truth and knowing how the tax dollars of hard-working Alabamians are being spent – you can show citizens today you care about these values by supporting & voting for this bill,” said WSFA 12 News Director Scott Duff.

The bill moves forward, but senators would like to review and offer a revised bill before it moves to the Senate for a debate and vote.

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