Saturday, February 28, 2009

Conway concerned about bill for new agency; Stumbo says changes coming Monday

Attorney General Jack Conway has raised what appear to be his first public questions about legislation to create an investigative arm of the legislature not subject to the open-records law or subpoenas.

“Transparency in government is very important to me,” Conway told Bill Bryant Friday in an interview for "27 Newsmakers," aired today on Lexington's WKYT-TV. ”We’re getting into separation-of-powers issues here, and I have some concerns.”

Conway had not previously voiced an opinion about the identical bills filed by Republican Senate President David Williams and Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo. He indicated that he had hoped to meet with them about it but had been unsuccessful. “I would hope they would give me the opportunity to express my concerns,” he said.

Conway indicated he also had problems with the legislature creating an agency that would perform some of the same investigative functions performed by his office. “To have the legislature create an investigative agency when our budget is cut, I have some concerns,” he said. The bills are Senate Bill 188 and House Bill 540.

Stumbo, who preceded Conway as attorney general, said yesterday that his bill will be amended to address some concerns. "A provision compelling the independently elected state auditor and attorney general to cooperate with the agency's investigators is likely to be dropped," Tom Loftus reports in The Courier-Journal. "And he said language exempting its records from release under subpoena or court order is likely to be modified. ... Details will be explained Monday, he said." (Read more) Stumbo's bill is in the House State Government Committee.

On another legislative issue, Conway said 911 emergency calls should remain public records, but parts of the calls that compromise personal privacy, such as "medical records or descriptions," should be redacted from records provided under the Open Records Act. Senate Bill 30, which would restrict access to 911 calls, passed the Senate 27-9 and is now in the House Judiciary Committee.

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