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University athletic spending to become a 90-day state secret

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First day of spring practice for the Georgia Bulldogs earlier this month. Brant Sanderlin, bsanderlin@ajc.com

First day of spring practice for the Georgia Bulldogs earlier this month. Brant Sanderlin, bsanderlin@ajc.com

Because Auburn might learn something, you won’t be able to. That’s according to our AJC colleague Scott Trubey:

A controversial bill to restrict the public’s access to records about state economic development projects cleared both chambers of the Georgia Legislature this week, with an unprecedented amendment that would also delay access to information from the University of Georgia Athletic Association and other athletic departments at state public colleges.

The bill, SB 323, would give all public college athletic associations 90 days to respond to an open records request. The bill covers all Georgia public colleges, including the four most powerful athletic departments – UGA, Georgia Tech, Georgia State and Georgia Southern.

All state agencies, including athletic associations, must currently respond with at least acknowledgement of a request within three business days. The actual fulfillment of records requests can sometimes extend longer.

Under the amendment, “salary information for non-clerical staff,” which would include coaches and executives, would be the only exception to the 90-day rule.

The measure would withhold for a longer period of time such newsworthy information as expenditures, such as the Georgia Bulldogs’ new ballyhooed indoor football practice facility in Athens. It also would delay disclosure of information such as the recent ramp up in spending by UGA for its football recruiting under new head coach Kirby Smart.

From the Macon Telegraph:

State Rep. Earl Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs, is a co-sponsor of the amendment and said the intention is to add extra time in returning open record requests as other states and athletic departments are afforded.

“This will help the startup programs, this applies to every single intercollegiate program in this state, every university from the University of Georgia  … [to] any intercollegiate sport at a D2, D3 school,” Ehrhart said. “It just allows us to play on the same field as  Alabama and everybody else

The Ehrhart amendment had plenty of Democratic support in the House. State Rep. Calvin Smyre, D-Columbus, was the second name on the addition. The Senate gave final approval to the bill on Wednesday.