A bill that would make the birth dates of public employees confidential has passed its first hurdle to become law. Senate Bill 1753 passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday in a unanimous vote. The title was taken off the bill, because some committee members had concerns about language within the measure. A bill must have a title to become law. Sen. Debbe Leftwich, D-Oklahoma City, filed the bill, saying she was concerned by an attorney general’s opinion that birth dates are presumed to be open under the Oklahoma Open Records Act. The opinion said birth dates are only closed when the agency proves that releasing them would violate an employee’s privacy. "No one requested this bill. This is based on reaction that I have as a former personnel manager,” said Leftwich, who worked as the director of administration and personnel for the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office. Leftwich said releasing birth dates to the public could open an employee up for identity theft or harassment. "I want to make it harder for crooks, not easier,” she said. Advocates for the state trooper’s association and the Oklahoma Public Employees Association support Leftwich’s efforts to make their birth dates confidential. "Citizens who work for the state of Oklahoma should have the same protections private employees have,” said Scott Barger, deputy director of the employees association. Open records advocates say public employee birth dates do not increase the chances of identity theft and the identifying information helps discern innocent people from someone with a similar name who is accused of a crime. "That’s the difference between public and private employees — a portion comes off the top of my salary to pay their salary,” said Mark Thomas, executive vice president for the Oklahoma Press Association. "I deserve to know who is on the payroll.”
Other records billsThe Judiciary Committee also heard and approved SB 1351, filed by Sen. David Myers, R-Ponca City. The bill, requested by the state’s Film and Music Office, seeks to keep certain film proposals confidential. Film and Music Office Director Jill Simpson said studios often don’t want to release details before a film is shot. "They will not come here if they are forced to release that information before they go into production,” Simpson told committee members. The state has a film rebate program to promote filmmaking in the state. "This is an issue now because of the caliber of productions we’re getting,” she said. "We’re getting A-list projects with A-list actors.” The Judiciary Committee also approved SB 1318 filed by Sen. Patrick Anderson, R-Enid, which would prohibit court clerks from charging more then 25 cents for copies requested under the Open Records Act. The bills will now go to the full Senate for consideration.