Senate committee OKs bills to exempt public employee birth dates, film proposals, stop court clerks from charging more than 25 cents per copy

The state Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday unanimously approved a bill exempting government employees' dates of birth from the Open Records Act, The Oklahoman reported today.

However, the bill's title -- a requirement to become law -- was removed after some committee members expressed concerns about some of the legislation's language, the newspaper said.

Senate Bill 1753 next goes to the full Senate for consideration along with two other records-related bills approved by the committee on Tuesday.

SB 1351, filed by Sen. David Myers, R-Ponca City, would keep confidential certain film proposals to the state Film and Music Office.

SB 1318, filed by Sen. Patrick Anderson, R-Enid, would limit court clerks to 25 cent per page for documents requested under the Open Records Act. Anderson is the Judiciary Committee chairman.

SB 1753 was filed by Sen. Debbe Leftwich, D-Oklahoma City.

She told The Oklahoman that the bill wasn't requested by local officials but was based on her reaction to a state attorney general opinion that she had requested on behalf of Oklahoma City officials.

In that opinion, Attorney General Drew Edmondson said the birth dates of public employees are presumed open and may be withheld only if officials can demonstrate on a case-by-case basis that disclosure would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of privacy that outweighs the public interest. (2009 OK AG 33)

Given that public employees' Social Security numbers, home addresses and telephone numbers are already exempted, SB 1753 would make it virtually impossible to determine if those employees have committed crimes, evaded paying taxes, filed for bankruptcy or made political contributions.

Background on the bill and the issues surrounding public access to the birth dates of government employees can be found in this earlier posting on this blog.

Joey Senat, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
OSU School of Journalism

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the commentators and do not necessarily represent the position of FOI Oklahoma Inc., its staff, or its board of directors. Differing interpretations of open government law and policy are welcome.