The birth dates of public employees would be confidential under a bill that passed the Senate on Thursday.
Senate Bill 1753, filed by Sen. Debbe Leftwich, D-Oklahoma City, passed with a vote of 44-0. No senators asked questions or debated the bill, which now goes to the House.
Keeping the birth dates of public employees secret violates taxpayers’ right to know the conduct of those who get paid with tax dollars, such as teachers, police officers, state troopers and elected officials, said Mark Thomas, executive director of the Oklahoma Press Association.
"Dates on a calendar do not belong to any single person,” Thomas said. "This is not like a Social Security number, it’s a date on the calendar that we use to decide if somebody can vote, if they can serve in the military and a host of other things.”
Leftwich, a former administrator with the medical examiner’s office, said she filed the bill in reaction to a recent state attorney general opinion that said public employee birth dates are public records unless the agency can prove that releasing the information would violate an employee’s privacy.
Leftwich said the bill protects state employees and no one requested the bill. The Oklahoma Public Employees Association and several law enforcement associations support the bill.
Leftwich said she didn’t want to make it easier for criminals to get access to information about state employees.
Rep. Randy Terrill, House author of the measure, said he plans to develop clearly defined criteria where the public’s right to know doesn’t go against "a reasonable expectation of privacy” on behalf of public employees.
"I understand that the public and particularly the press has a legitimate right to know in certain circumstances, and I’m curious if there isn’t some sort of balance or compromise that can’t be reached here,” Terrill said.