We must condemn HB 387 at all costs


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“They really want a government that operates in darkness.”

That’s what Amye Bensenhaver, former assistant attorney general, said about House Bill 387 on Tuesday, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader. I couldn’t agree more. 

Her comment came after a Kentucky House panel added even more sections to the bill that would result in a more restrictive Open Records Act in our state, including limiting open records to Kentucky residents rather than to anyone.

In addition to this, “A much-used exemption to public disclosure for ‘preliminary’ documents would be expanded to include any records in which recommendations are made or opinions are expressed if they ‘are not incorporated’ into a final record. This likely would be used to justify the withholding of many more government documents in the future, and for no legitimate purpose,” the Herald-Leader quoted Bensenhaver as saying.

In other words, this bill will help enable government officials to hide behind legal language and keep valuable information from the public. They will have more freedom to operate without accountability.

We should all be concerned about this. Though journalists may feel the immediate effects of this bill before non-press citizens, a transparent government is something we should all strive for. And our current Open Records Act, which is a resource for every citizen, is something we should fight to keep in tact.

The bill is sponsored by state Rep. Jason Petrie, who asked in his bill’s defense, “What’s the purpose of the open records? Is it to be open and transparent to the rest of the world or is it to be open to the people and residents of Kentucky? I think it’s the latter and not the former.”

He’s wrong. Open Records access in our government shouldn’t be restricted to state borders. How can journalists (and other responsible citizens) accurately report on national trends without having access to other states’ cooperation? How can we report on our state’s events without proper context and national vision?

Our government should be transparent for all its citizens and this latest effort to shroud its actions in darkness by dividing what knowledge some have access to based on their state is a dangerous attack on our democracy and one we must condemn at all costs.