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Gov. Ivey signs bill requiring response to public records requests

The Alabama Press Association and Alabama Broadcasters Association praised the bill for improving access to public records.

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Gov. Kay Ivey on Wednesday signed Senate Bill 270, a bill setting specific timelines that public entities in Alabama must follow when responding to public records requests. Sponsored by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, and Rep. Cynthia Almond, R-Tuscaloosa, Senate Bill 270 is the most significant amendment to Alabama’s public records law in over 50 years.

The bill requires an individual making a public records request to submit the request in writing with certain details provided; and requires the agency to respond within 10 days acknowledging receipt of the request. For a “standard request” in which the information could be gathered during the course of a single business day, a “substantive response” is required within 15 days of that acknowledgement. That response could include a denial, only for reasons including an incomplete request form, that the requested records are not public, or that the agency does not possess the requested records.

For “time intensive” requests, the agency must notify the individual within 15 days of acknowledging their request that the public records are time intensive and notify them of any fees regarding the provision of the records.

Last year, upon beginning her second term as governor, Ivey issued Executive Order 734 that sets similar timelines for responses to public records requests. This bill largely codifies that executive order.

Today, we build on the foundation laid by Executive Order 734 to ensure the principle of transparency endures beyond the Ivey Administration,” Ivey said. “Transparency isn’t just a buzzword – it’s a commitment to letting the sunlight in and ensuring our citizens can hold their government accountable. Like EO 734, this law protects government against overly burdensome requests while meaningfully improving fairness, access and the people’s right to timely insight into how their government works.”

The Alabama Press Association and Alabama Broadcasters Association praised the bill for improving access to public records.

“The Alabama Press Association would like to thank Gov. Ivey and her staff for working with us over the past several months on SB270, a bill that creates timelines in our Open Records Act,” said Felicia Mason, Alabama Press Association executive director. “Any citizen has the right to receive an acknowledgement and a timely response when making a request for a public record. The Governor’s Office played an integral role in getting a good compromise between interested parties. We appreciate Governor Ivey’s continued dedication to transparency in government.”

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“The Alabama Broadcasters Association (ABA) is very appreciative of the time and effort Governor Ivey and her staff committed to working on SB270 with stakeholders over many months in an effort to create timelines in the state’s Open Records Act,” said Alabama Broadcasters Association President Sharon Tinsley. “In 2023, the ABA recognized Governor Ivey with an award for her Executive Order addressing public records. Now, with her signature, the governor is assuring Alabamians the right to a timely response when making a request. We applaud her continued efforts to see improvements in our open records law in Alabama.”

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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