2021 Changes to Kentucky's Open Records Act
August 6, 2021
By: Michael G. Erena
The 2021 Kentucky General Assembly passed House Bill 312 (HB 312), which makes some important changes to Kentucky’s Open Records Act which became effective June 29, 2021.
Kentucky Residency Restriction for Open Records Requestors
Under the amended act, open records requests may now only be made by a “resident of the commonwealth.” Previously, any “person” could request inspection of records from Kentucky public agencies.
“Resident of the Commonwealth” is defined as follows:
- An individual residing in the Commonwealth;
- A domestic business entity with a location in the Commonwealth;
- A foreign business entity registered with the Secretary of State;
- An individual that is employed and works at a location or locations within the Commonwealth;
- An individual or business entity that owns real property within the Commonwealth;
- Any individual or business entity that has been authorized to act on behalf of an individual or business entity defined in paragraphs (a) to (e) of this subsection; or
- A news-gathering organization as defined in KRS 189.635(8)(b)1.a. to e..
While the definition is still rather expansive, this new residency restriction may have some limiting implications for certain foreign entities with no connection to the Commonwealth seeking records from Kentucky agencies. Now, any request for public records in Kentucky must include a statement that the person making the request is a resident of the Commonwealth; and a public agency in Kentucky may deny a request to inspect records that does not include such a statement. See KRS 61.872(2).
Kentucky Agencies Must Accept Open Records Requests Electronically
The amended act now requires all public agencies in Kentucky to not only accept open records requests electronically, but to also designate and publish an email address where respective open records requests can be received. KRS 61.876.
From a practical standpoint, this may be the most significant amendment to the act. It is certainly a welcome development for practitioners who previously made records requests with any degree of frequency and had to deal with the cumbersome process of certified mail or fax requests to obtain records from various Kentucky agencies.
Kentucky Agencies Must Accept AG’s Standardized Request Form
In line with the efficiency promoted by accepting electronic open records requests, the 2021 General Assembly also directed the Kentucky Attorney General’s office to publish a standardized request form which all Kentucky agencies must accept. The Standardized Request to Inspect Public Records is available on the Attorney General’s website and should hopefully further streamline the open records requests process for requestors and records custodians alike.