Back in November when Gov. Steve Beshear declared "transparency will be the new rule" he also called for "a thorough airing on both sides of the argument" for public release of state records in child abuse deaths.
"The proper venue for that debate," said Beshear, "is the General Assembly."
But as this General Assembly winds down, there has been no real debate or exchange of views.
Instead, the legislature is poised to enshrine into Kentucky law language written by attorneys for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, who are notoriously devoted, not to transparency, but to the deepest, darkest form of cover-their-backsides opacity.
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An attorney for the Kentucky Press Association says the language in a bill that advanced Tuesday would "add another layer of secrecy."
Something that began with seemingly good intentions has run off the rails.
At this point, the legislature should do no harm by letting the child protection legislation that's now part of Senate Bill 126 die.
We hate to say that because Rep. Susan Westrom, D-Lexington, has worked tirelessly to push through a good package of changes.
Apparently, the price she had to pay to avoid having the cabinet and the Beshear administration kill her proposals was giving in to the cabinet's desire for secrecy.
Among other things, Westrom's proposals would professionalize the ranks of state protective workers and provide some external oversight of the state's handling of lethal child abuse cases.
It won't hurt to put her proposals off until the 2013 legislature because there's no funding behind them. Instead, they would have to rely on the good will and generosity of the cabinet to move forward, which means they wouldn't move forward.
The House Health and Welfare Committee did hear some testimony about what other states do in terms of making records public, but there has been no robust debate. Kentucky's Open Records Act already protects privacy and the need for confidentiality in investigating child abuse and neglect.
The legislature will be moving in the wrong direction if it enacts a law that takes away not just the media's access to records but, more important, the public's ability to hold a critical government agency accountable.