Chicken-Fried News: Private records 

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In cash-strapped Oklahoma, lawmakers are looking for ways to bring in revenue!

We at Chicken-Fried News are imagining all our readers shouting, “It’s about time!”

One revenue-raising measure is to levy fees on public records. Now, we are imagining readers shaking their heads in disappointment.

According to the Associated Press (AP), some state agencies are looking to restrict the public’s access to records or information through bills filed by lawmakers this session. Some of those bills are billed as cost-saving measures. As if!

For instance, one bill would allow for Department of Corrections to discuss private prison rates or prison industries in closed-door meetings. Another bill would authorize the sale of some court records.

While the entire public should be concerned about government tightening access to public records, journalists and their lobbyist Mark Thomas, executive vice president of Oklahoma Press Association, are especially concerned.

“When I look at a lot of the bills this year, they are bills to give government bodies the opportunity to sell their records or restrict access to records to help the government … make money,” Thomas told AP.

At CFN, we feel lawmakers viewing public records as a cash crop is a misnomer. While they can be a hot commodity for journalists and genealogists — grandmothers across the state have utilized public records to trace family trees — citizens aren’t generally lining up to get their copies of legislative minutes or government spending reports. We assure you, lawmakers, that citizens won’t buy this argument that tight budgets are the real reason to limit press and public freedom.

Print headline: CFN: Private records

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