New Georgia Law Slows Response to Doc Requests

     ATLANTA (CN) Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has signed a law that critics say gives public universities the right to drag their feet in responding to open record requests pertaining to student athletes.
     The law, previously Senate Bill 323, allows the University of Georgia and other state colleges to wait 90 days before responding to Open Records Act requests.
     The bill’s text describes its goal as being “to extend the deadline for responses to requests for certain records relating to intercollegiate sports programs; to provide for public disclosure not to be required for any documents pertaining to an economic development project by any agency.”
     State Rep. Earl Ehrhart, a co-author of the amendment, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the bill gives athletic departments who receive “a shocking amount” of records requests, particularly during recruiting periods, extra time to fulfill them.
     Under the new legislation, athletic department funding information can also be withheld for up to 90 days. Previously athletic departments had three days to respond to requests.
     Jen Talaber, a spokesperson for Gov. Deal, told Courthouse News “Gov. Deal supported the inclusion of this language to his economic development bill as it simply levels the playing field with other states who have strong athletic programs like Georgia.”
     “All citizens should be disturbed,” said Hollie Manheimer, the executive director of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation.
     The foundation advances the cause of open government and freedom of information through education and advocacy, according to the foundation’s website.
     “The amendment bars citizen access to the records of the University System athletic departments for 90 days,” Maheimer said. “The amendment is so broadly written, it makes secret contract terms, letters of complaint or inquiry from the NCAA, plans for the expenditure of university and athletic association funds, and even more. No other public agency in Georgia is given 90 days to conduct its business in secret.”

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