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Local governments can now e-mail meeting notices as requested

FRANKFORT — Local governments in Kentucky will now be able to notify news organizations about their special meetings by e-mail.

The new provision in Kentucky's open meetings law took effect earlier this month, and was touted as a money and time saver. It allows local governments to send meeting notices electronically to any agency member or media organization that asks in writing for e-mail communications.

”It gives the media and the public more timely notification of the special meetings as well,“ Allison Martin, a spokeswoman for the attorney general's office said, ”because you never can ensure when a mailed letter is going to arrive by the postal service.“

The state attorney general's office is sending out notices of the new law to more than 1,400 public officials across the state. Mayors and county judge-executives are among the officials expecting to receive the open meeting law updates, and they're expected to pass the material on.

Martin said the mailing cost the office about $150 because most of it was sent electronically. State law requires the attorney general's office to notify local officials of any legislative changes to the state's open meetings or open records law.

Under the law, it's up to individual news organizations or members of the agencies to request to be notified of any special meetings by e-mail. Previously, e-mail notifications did not count as an official notice.

The e-mail notification is not mandatory, Martin said of the new law.

Kentucky Press Association President David Thompson said the change had the group's backing. Thompson said news organizations that want to take advantage of the e-mail option are being encouraged to send authorization letters to the appropriate local government agencies.

Sylvia Lovely, executive director of the Kentucky League of Cities, said the change is a small step that's likely to have great significance.

”It brings into the modern age the whole open-records, open-meetings concept,“ Lovely said. ”As we move into new technologies, this was a step forward.“

Debbie Batliner, a city clerk in Simpsonville, said the change should speed up notifications while saving time and money.

”It's definitely more efficient because the word is going electronically,“ Batliner, who is also president of the Kentucky Municipal Clerks Association, said. ”It does help us out in our job as clerks.“