State Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) will file legislation soon to strengthen Alabama's public records law.

Orr said in an interview on Wednesday the purpose of the bill was "to put some timelines around public records requests" in Alabama.

Orr said under current law, responses to public records requests are expected to be done in a vague "reasonable" timeframe. 

"Tell me what's reasonable to you and ask the same question (to someone else), you're going to get two different answers," Orr said. "It's a very well-balanced bill."

Alabama's Open Records Law is generally considered to be one of the weaker laws when compared to other states. It allows citizens to inspect and take copies of records requested with exceptions but doesn't provide a specific deadline for when Alabama state and local governments have to reply to records requests.

In January, Gov. Kay Ivey signed an executive order requiring state agencies to respond to public records requests by a set deadline. However, the order doesn't apply to local governments.

Under the order, standard requests will involve documents that the agency determines would take less than eight hours of staff time to process, and requesters should expect a substantive response within 15 business days.

A time-intensive request is one the agency determines would require more than eight hours of staff time to process for sundry reasons. Agencies will give the requester an option to clarify and narrow the request. A substantive response fulfilling or denying the request can be expected within 45 business days.

The order also removes all fees for documents provided electronically and creates a uniform fee schedule for all other records requests.

Legislation also filed by Orr in 2021 that would've placed deadlines and fee standards on public records responses failed to become law.

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