Georgia’s Open Records laws have been designed in a way that protects the state’s ability to attract jobs and investment to our state. The Georgia Chamber recently filed an amicus brief for a case in the Georgia Supreme Court that threatened those important protections. The case, Deal v. Coleman et al., ruled on proprietary information Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia, Inc. provided to the Technical College System of Georgia for their Quick Start job training program.
Since its inception in 1967, Quick Start has provided highly specialized job training for 976,000 workers for over 6,200 projects. It is a vital and unique program that distinguishes Georgia from other states seeking to lure and maintain good jobs.
When Kia Motors opened a manufacturing facility in West Point, they worked with Quick Start to provide training to new employees. Years later, Coleman et al. brought a case against Kia Motors for not releasing certain Quick Start records concerning Kia Motor’s hiring practices for public inspection under the Georgia Open Records Act.
In 2012, while the lawsuit was pending, the Georgia General Assembly amended the Open Records Act, to except certain records concerning the Quick Start program from public inspection. Kia Motors filed motions to dismiss the case based on the exemption. Coleman et al. argued, and the trial court agreed, that applying the exemption violated the prohibition against retroactive laws under the Georgia Constitution and the right of access to the courts under the US Constitution. The Supreme Court of Georgia, however, unanimously ruled the law was constitutional.
When a case, such as Deal v. Coleman et al., could have an statewide business impact, the Georgia Chamber Center for Competitiveness weighs in by filing an amicus brief highlighting the case’s potentially harmful legal effects. If the Deal v. Coleman et al. trial court decision had been upheld, an abundance of economic development, company recruitment, and business relocation or expansion would likely have been stifled as a result.