Editorial Roundup: Alabama

Dothan Eagle. January 28, 2023.

Editorial: Let the sun shine

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey began her new term on a positive note, at least among a constituency concerned with improving transparency in government. The governor issued an order outlining steps to improve public access to records among executive branch agencies, establishing procedures to handle requests, along with deadlines.

It’s long overdue, and should be viewed as a first step.

Alabama’s public records law states that any citizen has the right to inspect and take copies of public documents with the exception of those specifically exempted from the law. However, many requests are met with passive-aggressive obstruction, through exorbitant copy fees or allowing the request to languish, neither denied nor fulfilled.

A 2019 study by a researcher at the University of Arizona ranked Alabama last among states in responsiveness to requests for records. The Legislature has not come close to passing bills that would strengthen the law, al.com reports.

If the governor follows through in holding agencies’ feet to the fire, one lawmaker bent on improving public access, Sen. Arthur Orr, plans to introduce legislation that would hold all government entities to the requirements, including local governments.

We applaud Gov. Ivey’s initiative, and Sen. Orr’s plan for expansion. The key lies in seeing the plans to fruition, and enforcing them after they are in place.