Bluegrass Politics identifies a recent example of the absurdity of “residency” requirements in open records laws, in this case an incident in which a Tennessee public agency denied a Kentucky public agency’s request for Tennessee records.
The Kentucky Open Government Coalition vigorously opposed the "residents only" requirement — one of a number of restrictions on public records access enacted by the General Assembly in the 2021 Regular Session as part of HB 312. In a letter of opposition transmitted to every Kentucky Senator immediately after the House fast tracked passage, the Coalition — and 61 co-signers from across the United States, including the Associated Press, Scripps Media, the National Freedom of Information Coalition, the League of Women Voters, Common Cause, and the ACLU along with broadcasters, reporters, editors, former state representatives and others — asked whether Kentucky would "join the ranks of that small minority of states which have enacted retrogressive laws that impede both nonresident and resident access to public records, that are easily evaded, and that are inconsistently enforced, on the thin claim that the burden on taxpayers will be lifted."
The answer, sadly, was "yes."
We regularly cited Tennessee and Virginia as examples of states where existing residency requirements impeded resident and nonresident access to public access and failed to relieve the “burden” on state and local public agencies.
Our colleagues, TCOG’s Deborah Fisher and VCOG’s Megan Rhyne, provided invaluable support and expertise based on Tennessee’s and Virginia’s experiences with ill-conceived residency requirements.
Our objections fell on deaf ears.
The parade of horribles — of which this is a single example — continues to this day, adversely impacting the rights of residents and nonresidents
to state and local public records in Kentucky.