July 17, 2012 — Two very important things had their 20th birthday on Saturday, July 14, but you probably weren’t aware of it.
We’re referring to today’s Kentucky Open Meetings Law and Open Records Law which were passed by the 1992 General Assembly.
Our newspaper is particularly proud of these important laws because both were passed initially – Open Meetings in 1974 and Open Records in 1976 – through the leadership of our former publisher, the late W. E. Crutcher, as president of the Kentucky Press Association.
In the beginning, both laws were relatively weak by comparison with what we have today but they were the start of a commitment to provide the citizens of this state with greater access to their government on all levels.
The revisions of 1992 made Kentucky a leader in openness in government. Trend-setting language used in those laws has been replicated across the nation.
Even today, some states are battling with elected officials over issues which Kentucky settled 20 years ago, such as outlawing “serial” meetings which circumvent quorum requirements.
The strengthened laws enacted in 1992 met considerable resistance but the public’s right to know what was happening in government finally carried the day.
Both bills languished in 1990 but hard work in the ensuing two years made sure they were written into law in 1992.
Kentucky Educational Television (KET) will be airing a program on seven occasions later this month that covers the history of Open Meetings and Open Records in Kentucky.
Telling that story will be Louisville attorney Jon Fleischaker, a national expert on open meetings and open records, and John Nelson, managing editor of The Advocate-Messenger and executive editor of Advocate Communications Inc.
Here’s the schedule from the KET website:
KET -- Sunday, July 22, at 1 p.m. EDT
KET2 -- Tuesday, July 24, at 7:30 p.m. EDT
KET2 -- Wednesday, July 25, at 7:30 a.m. EDT
KETKY -- Wednesday, July 25, at 8 a.m. EDT
KETKY -- Thursday, July 26, at 6 p.m. EDT
KETKY -- Sunday, July 29, at 9:30 a.m. EDT
KET -- Monday, July 30, at 12:30 a.m. EDT
Thomas Jefferson spoke on this subject more than 230 years ago with this observation:
“Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”
Thanks to Open Meetings and Open Records, we of the news media are better watchdogs for the public good.