Gov. Ivey issues executive order to promote transparency in state government

Governor Kay Ivey
Governor Kay Ivey(Billy Pope | Office of Governor Kay Ivey)
Published: Jan. 26, 2023 at 12:13 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 27, 2023 at 6:07 PM EST
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WBRC) - Governor Kay Ivey signed Executive Order 734 Thursday “Promoting Transparency in State Government Through Enhanced Accessibility to Public Records,” which delivers on her inaugural commitment to ensure state government works with even greater efficiency, accountability and transparency.

“From day one, a top priority of mine was to restore our people’s faith in their state government,” said Governor Ivey. “Today, I am still every bit as committed to leading a state government that Alabamians can be proud of – one that is open, honest and transparent. Access to public records is essential to guaranteeing transparency in government, and I am proud to sign this executive order that improves this process as a whole.”

The following information was obtained via press release from the Governor’s Press Office:

Executive Order 734 seeks to streamline the public records request process by making these key changes:

  1. Requires all executive-branch agencies to establish a public records page on their website that includes a public records request form and a contact for assistance with public records requests.
  2. Establishes improved response times based on the type of public records request being made:
    1. A standard request is a public records request that seeks one or more very clearly identified documents that the agency determines would take less than 8 hours of staff time to process. Subject to modest extensions and the receipt of any required payment, the agency will be prepared to provide a substantive response within 15 business days.
    2. A time-intensive request is a public records request the agency determines would take more than 8 hours of staff time to process, perhaps because the request itself is vague or overly broad or because substantial efforts will be required to locate documents or redact legally protected information. Agencies will give the requester an option to clarify and narrow the request. Subject to extensions and the receipt of any required payment, the agency will be prepared to provide a substantive response fulfilling or denying the request within 45 business days.
  3. Establishes a uniform fee schedule. Executive Order 734 cuts fees by providing that no per-page fee be charged for records provided electronically. The fee schedule is as follows:
    1. Document retrieval and preparation: The agency may charge the requester up to $20.00 per hour, including a standard, minimum fee of $20.00, for time spent locating, retrieving and preparing records for production. The agency may not charge for legal review or redaction necessary to withhold legally protected information.
    2. Per-page fees: The agency may charge a per-page fee of up to $.50 for copies produced on standard 8.5x11 paper. This fee is not applicable for documents provided electronically.
    3. Actual cost: The agency may also charge any actual costs incurred in processing a public records request if the requester is informed of the cost in advance of being charged. For example, the requester may be charged for a flash drive or other hardware necessary for electronically producing records, for special paper sizes and for costs associated with searching electronic databases.

Agencies must comply with these new requirements or begin to make formal rule changes necessary to implement these new requirements, on or before April 26, 2023.

To learn more about Executive Order 734, click here.

Positive Reaction from the Alabama Broadcasters Association/Alabama Press Association

The Alabama Broadcasters Association (“ABA”) and the Alabama Press Association (“APA”) applaud Gov. Ivey for outlining in detail how public records can be accessed from state agencies.

ABA President Sharon Tinsley responded to the Governor’s announcement with gratitude. Tinsley said, “Broadcasters across the state appreciate the action Governor Ivey has taken. Her effort to ensure transparency and to provide a clearer process for obtaining the people’s records is welcomed. We urge the Legislature to follow Governor Ivey’s lead by making needed changes to the Alabama Open Records Act.”

“We applaud the Governor’s Executive Order that provides a minimum time for state agencies to respond to records requests and addresses the fees charged for obtaining the records. It provides definitions of what is considered a standard request and those that will take more time to gather, and offers guidance on how to address both,” APA Executive Director Felicia Mason said. “These are much needed improvements, and we look forward to working with state elected officials to make access to public record easier for Alabamians.”

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