The proposed law to protect government employees' information from public records has been limited to law enforcement.  • Georgia Recorder

A Senate measure that would have limited public access to personal information about politicians and government employees – such as their home addresses – has been limited to law enforcement officials.

The original The invoice had alarms First Amendment advocates He argued that lawmakers would create a sweeping public records exemption that would limit the public's ability to hold government officials accountable.

Sen. Matt Brass, a Newnan Republican who is sponsoring the bill, said its goal is to protect public employees in the digital age by redacting their personal information in government databases, such as the qPublic website that many counties use for publication use of ownership information.

It's a concern being expressed in legislatures across the country, as these so-called drafting measures are introduced in at least a dozen states this year.

“People are releasing information that doesn't really need to be released,” said Brass, a lawmaker who chairs the powerful Senate Rules Committee. “And with access to the World Wide Web, this is a growing problem. And we’re just trying to stop it.”

Brass's bill passed the Senate earlier this month, but Rep. Houston Gaines, an Athens Republican, worked with Brass to draft a new version that could address concerns raised by First Amendment advocates.

Under Gaines' proposal, the bill would apply only to law enforcement officers, who must request in writing to have their home address or phone number removed from public records available online.

Local governments would have until January to provide law enforcement officials with a form they could use when filing the deportation petition. In the meantime, however, applications can also be submitted in writing. The bill would take effect on July 1.

If a county refuses to remove the information, a judge can order it to take action.

The revised version of the bill was easily approved by a House committee on Tuesday and now moves to the House Rules, which determines which bills advance to the full chamber for a vote. Because of the change, the bill went back to the Senate for another vote. The session ends on March 29th.

Sarah Brewerton-Palmer, a board member of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation, called the new version a “targeted solution to a public safety issue without jeopardizing general public access to records in Georgia.”

Brewerton-Palmer said she expects the issue to continue to gain traction across the country as lawmakers try to adapt to new cyber threats.

But she also said she hopes policymakers will turn to targeted measures like the new SB 215 to address these concerns, rather than the “blunt weapons” that are popping up across the country and hampering investigative journalism and threatening government accountability could.

“The most important thing – and what you need to think carefully about with these changes – is that you need to find the right balance between security and government transparency. Because government transparency is a very fundamental value that we must protect,” she said.