Archive for Friday, February 25, 2005

Senate advances ‘Lew Perkins Provision’ to open records law

February 25, 2005


— Senators have unanimously approved a proposed change in the Kansas Open Records Act to require full disclosure of public officials' compensation packages.

The measure is known as the "Lew Perkins Provision" after the University of Kansas athletic director. The Senate's 39-0 vote Thursday sent it to the House.

The bill's nickname comes from a lawsuit filed last year by The World Company, which publishes the Lawrence Journal-World and operates cable television station 6News, to force disclosure of Perkins' compensation package. The Associated Press and the Kansas Press Association later joined the litigation.

When a Douglas County district judge ruled in the media organizations' favor, the university released the records.

The bill would place the district court ruling into state law, mandating the disclosure of all compensation records, even those involving anonymous gifts and other, private sources.

However, senators also approved a bill, 38-1, to keep more than 240 exceptions to the records act in place for five years. Those exemptions are set to expire July 1, and senators said they want adequate time to review them.

The same bill also clarifies when public officials can close records to prevent an unwarranted invasion of privacy.

Critics say the provision is too vague and gives government officials too much discretion. The new language defines an invasion of privacy as revealing information that would be highly offensive to a reasonable person and not of legitimate public concern.

A third bill, approved 37-2, would close records detailing information about utilities' security measures, preventing them from even being subject to subpoenas in criminal or civil cases or administrative hearings.

In other action, a bill to protect the right of mothers to nurse their babies in public cleared the House on a 118-5 vote and went to the Senate.

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