Gov. Ivey signs public records request executive order

On Jan. 26, Alabama Gov. Kay signed Executive Order 734, which she says will enhance accessibility to public records for Alabamians.

The executive order 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.

“From day one, a top priority of mine was to restore our people’s faith in their state government,” Ivey said in a statement. “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 executive order also establishes improved response times based on the type of public records request being made. A “standard request” is a public records request that seeks one or more clearly identified documents that the agency determines would take less than eight hours of staff time to process. The agency will be required to provide a substantive response to these requests within 15 business days.

A “time-sensitive request” is a public records request the agency determines would take more than eight hours of staff time to process. Agencies will be required to give the requester an option to clarify and narrow a “time-sensitive request” and the agency will be required to provide a substantive response fulfilling or denying the request within 45 business days.

The executive order also establishes a uniform fee schedule for all public records requests. It also establishes that no per-page fee be charged for records provided electronically. Agencies may charge a requester up to $20 per hour, including a minimum fee of $20, for time spent locating, retrieving and preparing records for production. Agencies will not be allowed to charge for legal review or redaction necessary to withhold legally protected information, however. Also, agencies may charge a per-page fee of up to 50 cents for copies produced on standard 8.5×11 paper. This fee will not be applicable for documents provided electronically. Agencies may also charge any “actual costs” incurred in processing a request as long as the requestor is informed of the cost in advance.

All executive branch agencies are required to adhere to these new requirements – or begin to make formal rule changes necessary to implement the changes – by April 26.

Executive Order 734 can be read in its entirety at, https://tinyurl.com/3crr4kjz.