New bill to give athletic departments 90 days to respond to Open Records request

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Gabe Thomas

The Georgia State Senate and House of Representatives passed a bill on Tuesday that would allow university athletic departments up to 90 days to respond to open records requests.

According to the Macon Telegraph, Tuesday night an amendment was made to a Senate bill that dealt with Open Record request in the field of economic development that allows the 90 day period. The only exception to the 90 day rule is the salaries for coaches.

Supporters of the bill claim that it gives a level playing field to athletic departments in the state so they can compete with programs whose states allow more time for response to open records request.

Tom Krause, the chief of staff for state Sen. Bill Cowsert, R-Athens who sponsored the bill, told The Telegraph that the idea for the bill came from University of Georgia Head Football Coach Kirby Smart.

“It’s a similar subject that, from what I understand, came to light through Kirby Smart at UGA, “ Krause told the Telegraph. “It had to do with football teams or athletic departments that are recruiting football players in the state of Georgia. They had a (shorter) window where the documents were not yet public, but other states had 90 days.”

An article published by Seth Emerson, the UGA football beat reporter for the Atlanta Journal Constitution disputes Krause’s claim. The article published on reports that 90 days would be the longest specified time frame of any state with University athletic programs in the SEC with UGA. The next highest is South Carolina at 15 days.

Two states, Alabama and Florida, open record laws do not specify an amount of time to respond to Open Record requests, but require a response be given in a, “reasonable amount of time.” According to the article, The University of Alabama, Auburn University, and The University of Florida have all three been slow to process Open Records Request.

Georgia Southern athletic director Tom Kleinlein could not be reached for comment about the bill. Vice President for Legal Affairs Maura Copland told The George-Anne in an e-mail the law would dictate how Georgia Southern handles open record request for the athletic department.

“We will do whatever the law dictates we do,” Copeland said. “So, we will follow whatever timeline is signed into law, beginning on the effective date of legislation.”